First Look: Kushi Izakaya & Sushi


There’s something wrong with me (maybe). I can’t get enough sushi! I just crave it – spicy tuna, firecracker, flying fish roe, fatty tuna, I WANT IT ALL. So when I was invited to check out the new Japanese gastropub in Mount Vernon Square, I jumped at the chance.

Sleek, modern and minimalist, the best Kushi experience you can have is at one of their three (!) bars – the sake bar, the sushi bar or what I call the grill bar – what is technically supposed to be called the robata counter. I sat at the robata counter – the bar surrounding Kushi’s kitchen. There is literally no back kitchen at Kushi, everything is prepared out front under the watchful eye of diners. With charcoal and wood burning grills, a sous-vide machine and a few tiny stoves, eating at Kushi is cooking theater. Chefs slice, dice, grill, plate and prep right in front of you. It gives the diner a perfect vantage point for the evening, and also keeps you craving more.


We started the American way, with sushi. Here’s the thing about Kushi’s sushi (ha, isn’t that fun to say?) – it’s not fussy – it’s all about the quality of the fish. There are no tricks, you won’t find a fish and chips roll here, or a godzirra – nope. It’s all about putting the protein on display. In fact, Kushi has fish flown in every morning from the Tokyo fish market. They serve only the best cuts with fresh wasabi. But the foreign fish about the only non-locovore part of the restaurant. Most of the decor was built with recycled materials, and when they can, they use fresh vegetables from Farm Fresh favorite, Pennsylvania’s Tuscarora Farms.


Meals are perfectly paired with a well-organized sake menu. Four Japanese beers are always available on draught and an additional selection of over eight Japanese and other beers rounds out the menu. The sake program is comprehensive with more than 60 selections of hot and cold sake featuring filtered or unfiltered sake and small batch labels by the glass or bottle. The sake menu is ranked by numbers ranging for dry to sweet and sparkling.


Once you’ve selected a sake bottle, they allow you to choose your own sake glass from a tray with six or seven different designs – I chose a pretty little light blue pottery one, and my companion chose a wooden cup, pictured above. It’s those little touches like choosing your own dishware that make Kushi such a fun experience.


Even the chopstick rests are unique. Little ceramic snow peas and pickles or pretty striped bars keep your chopsticks from touching table. Even the chopsticks are thoughtful, with a textured point for better gripping. After ordering and finishing classic sushi, we started in on the grill items. I’d recommend the pork belly, wagu beef, and if you’re ready to get spendy, the little dollop of foie gras with plum sauce is divine. The serving sizes are small – like in the picture above, three slices of meat to a stick. But the process is incredibly complex, most of the items have been sous-vide for hours on end and then seared and grilled, a process that can take more than a day from start to finish.

The vegetables are well prepared. The grilled asparagus comes woodfire grilled and diners are treated to a mix of both green and white stalks. The potatoes with an aoli are crispy and a nice accompaniment to the grilled meats.

All in all, Kushi is shaping up to be a new DC favorite. The service is still a bit hit-or-miss, but that’s to be expected in the first two weeks while the kitchen works out the kinks. The sake martinis are lovely, the fish is impeccable, and the grill items are simple. Kushi is the perfect place for me to feed my sushi addiction.

Kushi is located in the new City Vista building 465 K St. NW next to Busboys and Poets in the Mt. Vernon Neighborhood. Closest Metro: Mount Vernon Square (Green and Yellow lines). For more information, call (202) 682-3123‎.

Thanks to Three Lockharts Public Relations for the invitation to try Kushi.

Katie moved to DC in 2007, and has since embarked upon a love affair with the city. She’s an education reform advocate and communications professional during the day; at night and on the weekends, she’s an owner here at We Love DC. Katie has high goals to eat herself through the entire city, with only her running shoes to save her from herself. For up-to-the-minute news and reviews (among other musings), follow her on Twitter!

8 thoughts on “First Look: Kushi Izakaya & Sushi

  1. You lost me at “fish flown in daily from the japanese fish market”. No matter how good it is, the impact associated with that is not worth a second of my time.

  2. Most quality sushi is flown in from Tsukiji (the fish market in Tokyo) That’s where the best sushi restaurants get their fish for the day. I’ve been there before and there is nothing better than super fresh fatty tuna. We will certainly check out Kushi!

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  4. But once it gets to DC, it’s taken some time to be packed, delivered to the airport, loaded on a plane, flown for 14 hours (if it’s a direct flight), then unloaded from the plane, and driven to Kushi in DC area traffic… we’re looking at nearly a day of transit before delivery! :)

  5. Had dinner there last night and didn’t see this till now. How coincidental. My impressions:

    * very ambitious in terms of size of restaurant, size of menu (takes a while to get the ordering down) and size wine list. all three are very big and thus, i imagine, hard to execute well on a consistent basis.
    * it’s expensive. granted your getting a lot of value in many cases, given the uniqueness of many menu items; but for less exotic items such as grilled asparagus and mushrooms, or even grilled chicken breast, for example, should not be expensive as they are, or they should just provide more than the tiny quantities that arrived. this is a big negative they can easily and should correct, in my opinion.
    * service is very pleasant (nice hellos, good-byes, thank-yous and no attitude) which is a must. however, food service execution probably would benefit from time and some additional organization — not a big negative for a new restaurant but still, I can make suggestions: for one, they did not seem to time the arrival of dishes in any particular way, and food runners don’t seem orchestrated in any way (like by an expediter) so too much stuff arrived at same time and also our oyster appetizers arrived after our main course. It was like a free for all, runners delivery a dish and crossing it off your order list next to you. Not that that’s bad in itselve, but for the money, there should be a better, smoother dining experience.
    * love the ambiance and the different seating areas and multiple bars (sushi, robata, drink…)

    overall, I thank Kushi for bringing a style of Japanese cuisine not really found in DC. i truly enjoyed the food for the most part and wish i could become a regular, but that would also mean making much more money than i do now.

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