Summary: Sushi Nirvana discusses a perfect sushi based evening. I set out with my sushi buddy to see the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, followed by dinner at Kushi Sushirestaurant in D.C. I cannot recommend either the movie or the restaurant enough. The pork-belly and seared salmon nigiri alone will ensure my return. A more detailed account my perfect sushi evening can be found below. Enjoy!!
Once in a while a foodie opportunity comes along so tantalizing, that your only option is to dive in head first no restrictions. I saw the above movie trailer back in January, and was immediately struck by the beauty and simplicity of Jiro’s dedication to his craft. I knew at once that this was going to be one of my defining foodie adventures. Attracted by the visually stunning glimpse of a Master honing his skills, I was determined to see the movie. The plan that formed in my mind was an evening watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi followed by dinner at an amazing Sushi restaurant. Of course such a film, such an experience should be enjoyed with someone equally dedicated to the pursuit of delectable sushi.
A coworker of mine, who shares my own fanatical worship of all things sushi, agreed to accompany me to the film and dinner afterwards. He was the perfect choice given his pursuit of hedonistic delights and knowledge of sushi; at several points during the movie he explained Japanese terms to me. We arrived at the E Street Cinema about 10 minutes before the movie started. My partner in crime noted that beer and wine were sold at the concession stand, though the prices were somewhat outrageous as is typical of movie theaters: a Kirin Beer was $9.95. Fortunately in the spirit of the evening, we’d stopped at the local liquor store and picked up sake to enjoy during the film. Once that ran out we switched to Makers Mark. Rather than being offended, the other movie goers seemed somewhat in awe of our audacity. We declined to acknowledge their imploring mournful looks as we sipped our sake; this would teach the well behaved people to smuggle their own libations into the theater. Also, the movie was starting.
The Movie: The film followed Jiro Ono and his lifetime dedication to the craft of perfect sushi. Every moment from inception to completion is steeped in flawlessly consistent tradition. Every aspect of the meal is taken into consideration from the selection of the fish from revered vendors, to the preparation of the rice, to the order the sushi is served in. Wasabi and Soy sauce are not served with the meal, rather patrons trust Jiro’s expertise. The way that the Master serves the sushi to you is the way that it is meant to be eaten, to alter his creation would be a sign of disrespect. Even chopsticks are eschewed for fear that they might alter the flavor of what many consider the best sushi in the world. Jiro runs Sukiyabashi Jiro the way a General runs his camp, quietly demanding perfection in everything from the setup to the preparation. Many have referred to him as Shokunin, meaning an artisan dedicated to his craft in both a spiritual and material way for the greater good of the community; this is Jiro.
The beauty of Jiro’s craft is marred only by it’s ephemeral nature. Jiro’s son comments on the quality of the fish remarking that years ago there was never a shortage of high quality fish, but overfishing has taken it’s toll. It is Jiro’s firm belief that in order to make delicious food, one must eat delicious food. The extinction of Jiro’s flawlessly consistent sushi is threatened by the lack of delicious fish; it is a poignant yet simple observation.
Every day is the same for Jiro; he makes sushi. There is something to be said for a man who dedicates his life in the pursuit of perfect for his chosen craft. The repetition and consistency, foreign to many of us, have earned Jiro the honor of being the only sushi chef to ever be awarded 3 Michelin stars.
The Restaurant: Needless to say I enjoyed the movie a great deal. Upon exiting the movie theater my partner in crime and I made our way to Kushi. Excited about our looming culinary adventure, we arrived at the restaurant several minutes early but were immediately seated at the sushi bar. As we walked to our seats I was amazed at the restaurants setup. A large grill was the center piece, allowing patrons to view food preparation. The grill area also lent itself to communal eating. There was also a sushi bar, which is were we were seated. While we were to engrossed in our food to pay much attention to our fellow foodies, the opportunity was nevertheless present to exchange mutual admiration of the food. I was enchanted by the the design of the bar, above which hung gigantic Chinese lanterns.
We started off simply: a bit of tuna and salmon nigiri. It was delectable. I ordered a cocktail called the White Widow, that arrived promptly. Kushi’s White Widow takes advantage of the recent popularity of white whiskey (better known as moonshine); the addition of grapefruit and hibiscus syrup made for an interesting combination. My coworker ordered the Lychee Martini, both are worth sampling if you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood. After a cocktail, we were prepared to get down to business. We ordered an embarrassing amount of food that you’ll see portrayed below. I cannot recommend this place enough. Not only is the food amazing so are the waitstaff. They were ninja like when necessary and talkative when we wanted a more information about the food.
For our second course, my coworker asked our server if we could eat in a style called omakase, meaning ‘I’ll leave it to you‘. We told the servers that we were looking to spend approximately $60.00 on our second course, they accommodated this request in splendid fashion. I would recommend this style of eating for anyone feeling adventurous, it was an amazing way to sample a wide variety of items on the menu based on the chef’s recommendation. I’d like to note that our server inquired before putting in our order if there was anything we did not like. I’m not a big fan of sea urchin and was delighted at our server’s attention to detail.
Our first plate was a duck sausage that was obscenely flavorful and tender. My coworker, afraid of going to jail for eating something so young asked our server how old the sausage was. Upon being assured that it had reached an appropriate age, we dug into it with embarrassing gusto. The the Brussels sprouts were also notable, though something that I could have done at home myself. A major highlight was the skewered pork-belly, that was only eclipsed by the seared salmon nigiri.
If I had not mentioned before, then let me reiterate how gluttonous we were at this restaurant. Protestations of small plates, simply do not excuse ordering twenty small plates. I truly believe that the servers were both embarrassed for us and in awe of us. Once the above “small plates” were finished the servers brought out seared scallops on the half shell, silken battered and fried tofu, a shrimp and avocado roll, as well as deep fried bacon wrapped scall0ps served with a lemon dipping sauce. Since I’m not a fan of tofu, the fact that I tolerated the texture at all should tell you how tasty it was. The deep fried bacon wrapped scallops were also notable. While the shrimp and avocado roll was nothing special, the seared scallops were served on the half shell and then cooked to perfection. This concluded our second course.
I’m embarrassed to admit that we had a third course of our own choosing. Though not quite as intricate, we did order the Chirashi a meal consisting of slices of shashimi served atop a bed of rice. I didn’t get to taste as much of the chirashi as I would have liked, having bartered my remaining pieces for both pieces of the saltwater eel. I’m still convinced that I got the better part of the deal; the eel was that buttery, that succulent, that good.
I had very few disappointments about my meal at Kushi, but to be fair there were a couple, mostly of my own making. We desperately wanted to try the amberjack, which they had run out off. While this ensures my return, I could have shed a tear at the time. I also neglected to order the pork-belly roll or the octopus, which I regretted the next day. I was too full when we exited to regret anything at the time. While the restrooms were clean and spacious and will accommodate any wheelchair, the steps leading to the restroom would be difficult to navigate. I will admit that the restaurant is very large and there is a very good chance that there are other restrooms that are hopefully a bit more wheelchair accessible. I’ll have to update this on my next trip to Kashi.
The Take Away: On the whole, Kushi is my new favorite sushi spot; I’ll be back if I have to resort to begging in the streets to eat here.