We Love Food: Sticky Rice

"Sticky Balls" at Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice is a lot like its brazenly named signature dish, “Sticky Balls” – a chaotic gooey crunchy glorious mess.

This isn’t some temple of sushi where a plate of trembling tempura is placed in front of you with a reverential hush like it’s the freaking Holy Grail. You want that, go to Sushi Ko. You want pristine sashimi prepared by traditional chefs, go to Sushi Taro. You want beautiful experiments and the occasional fugu dinner, go to Kaz.

What you will get at Sticky Rice is irreverent cuisine, a florid interior reminiscent of a tattoo parlor’s secret bordello, and a crazy atmosphere like some art students’ late night party. And resign yourself to waiting on a busy weekend… this isn’t the place to hit with a hard time deadline.

The Real Reason Jenn Likes Sticky Rice

Warning: I’m serious about the wait. As more and more people explore the nightlife on H Street, the competition for a table at the limited restaurants can be fierce, and Sticky Rice is no exception. Hosts do a good job of manning the waitlist, but I highly recommend calling ahead on the weekend. Note the wait for your order can also be a bit long, as the kitchen never seems to get its timing act together. But if you’re ok with that, it can be fun to just chill and enjoy the atmosphere. Honestly, what else are you going to do? It’s H Street, you’re stuck there for the whole night anyway! I’ve rarely been impatient while waiting downstairs in the “pagoda bar,” with friendly bartenders providing decent saketinis and banging a gong to liven the crowd, all mesmerized by a hypnotic underwater projection. But if I had a concert to go to, I’d be peeved, so plan accordingly.

Billed as “American Pan-Asian” cuisine, Sticky Rice’s menu swerves wildly around noodles, sandwiches, and non-sushi entrees including buckets of tater tots and even a “whole lotta rib dinner.” There’s a large vegan/vegetarian friendly section as well. I have yet to try the tater tots, but the smell can drive you mad, and hefty sandwiches like Osaka Tuna or Umeboshi BBQ Pork come with them as opposed to the usual fries. Starters have been a mixed bag, with the Sticky Scallops earning praise from dinner companions, while the steamed Potstickers were deemed bland wet rags. The “regular” sushi is good, but not worth making a special trip to H Street if you already have a favorite local sushi bar.

It’s with their “specialty” sashimi and sushi rolls that Sticky Rice really breaks out. The aforepictured Sticky Balls is a crazy decadent mess of tuna, crab and rice deep fried in inari pockets covered with gooey wasabi dressing and eel sauce. Billy Goat’s Guff is a divine combination of goat cheese wrapped with broiled yellowtail and covered in ponzu sauce, scallions and sesame seeds, while the GI Jane kicks up the usual boring veggie maki of cucumbers and cream cheese by rolling around in crushed wasabi peas. My weepy eyes never quite recovered from the spicy punch of Snap, Crackle, Pop’s jalapenos, and the Chili Roll is equally deadly, tempered with pineapple. These are all incredibly fun dishes to experience, and when’s the last time you said that about food?

So, if you have time to spare and are playing around on H Street, hit Sticky Rice, bang the gong, order something that sounds wild, and don’t forget to pick up the bathroom phone… oh, you’ll see what I mean.

Sticky Rice is located at 1224 H Street NE. For more information, call (202) 397-ROLL.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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3 thoughts on “We Love Food: Sticky Rice

  1. This place sounds wild. I’m going to a show at the R&R Hotel on Friday so maybe I’ll check out the rice that is sticky.

  2. Had an okay, though quirky experience the first visit a couple of months ago. Went back last week and was very disappointed. The waiter was a total loser who took 15 minutes to bring me a PBR. I’ll drink a PBR, but I don’t want to wait 15 minutes for it. He then forgot to bring us silverware or napkins, delivered the wrong food, and never stopped by to check on us to see if we needed anything. He was nice, but completely clueless. The sushi was disappointing. I really want this place to do well, and it was crowded for a weeknight, so it probably will, but I don’t plan to go back.

  3. I have to agree with the review and comments. I loved the food and the prices were reasonable, but the frigin’ wait was ridiculous. We dropped in next door at the Pug and had a few beers and cheese puffs to kill time, so I guess it was ok. Funny thing on my part was getting charged about half price for my 1st visit. I’m not sure if it was because of the wait or if they just messed up. Anyway, I hope they do well and the crowds indicate that they should be ok, but the wait times and service can’t be excused. Get it together fella’s, and good luck! : )