Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sushi Taro Restaurant Week

Sushi Taro

Absolutely worth it for Restaurant Week, Sushi Taro offers a diverse menu that is simple, clean, and well-executed. The pairing of sake highlights many of the flavors and allows you to enjoy the meal.

Restaurant Week is a great concept. For one week in the summer and one week in the winter, you can try most restaurants in D.C. for a prix fixe $35~. However, over the course of the last few years, I've found that I don't really like Restaurant Week. I don't normally order a three course meal, and I don't usually get dessert (so sue me, I like savory items better), so doing a three course meal at most places just isn't worth it to me. Plus, usually the items are limited and the service is meh.

However, I think I may have found one of the exceptions to the rule. Sushi Taro.

So for those of you who may not be familiar (me: formally guilty of this, as I had never been), Sushi Taro does a set tasting menu sets which all start at $80. So the opportunity to do a tasting menu for only $35 seems like quite a steal. And it isn't a dumbed down version of the menu. It is a wonderful highlight of Japanese cuisine.

I have a pretty high standard for sushi. There are many parts to sushi that need to be executed well. The rice and the freshness of fish, to me, are key. So much of sushi that you find can be pretty mediocre. But Sushi Taro was really a step above. Each piece was a highlight of the fish. The sashimi melts in your mouth. And the braised pork belly main course was sweet and savory with just the right balance of fat and tender pork.

For their diverse menu and their excellent selection for Restaurant Week, I would give it three stars and say that if you have a desire to do Restaurant Week, this is absolutely the best place to do it.

The meal started out with a trio of dishes. Spicy edamame, three excellent cuts of sashimi, and a cold soba dish with tempura bits, nori and scallion.

The edamame was pretty standard but a good appetizer to start.

The soba noodles were excellent. Just slightly chilled and dressed well. Not too filling but a great dish.

As part of the restaurant week menu, you can also order a pairing. All of our party did the sake pairing. Each sake was served chilled (as all good sake should).

But I also couldn't help myself when I saw a Gruet Rosé. Mmmm bubbles.

For the main course, you were presented with three entrée options. A 10 hour braised pork belly in sweetened soy, a grilled black code marinated in yu-an soy sauce, and a panko fried softshell crab and vegetables.

The pork belly was well portioned. A few pieces of soft, sweet, and savory pork belly served with a soy broth and a steamed piece of broccoli. It wasn't too filling or overpowering.

Others in our party ordered the softshell crab. It was perfectly crisp, and not soggy, but also not too heavy to overpower the softshell crab. I honestly think that's the key to softshells...if you drown them in too much fried batter, you are essentially wasting the softshell crab. But Sushi Taro highlighted the delicate crab well.

The next course was a series of options for sushi. You chose your sushi pieces and a half roll. The choices for a half roll were california or spicy tuna. The three sushi options included:

regular 7: tuna, salmon, shrimp, eel, yellowtail, white fish, omlette

japanses 5: octopus, mackarel, tuna, sweet raw (botan) shrimp, snapper

special 4: fatty tuna, kobe beef, JPN fish, sea urchin

For my selection, I chose the spicy tuna and the special 4. Even though there were fewer pieces, it was a perfect amount of sushi. The urchin was the most interesting, particularly since it was my first time eating urchin. And kobe beef on rice? It was pretty good. Although I could probably do without it. I think I would have rather had another piece of fish. But I'm biased, as I don't eat much beef. The spicy tuna roll was also excellent. Not too spicy, so it didn't overpower the tuna.

Below is the japanese 5 with the addition of the rainbow roll (optional addition). The rainbow roll was fantastic.

Lastly is the regular 7. My fellow eaters raved about the quality of the sushi. Soy sauce and wasabi went untouched. Everyone enjoyed the pure fish without any extra flavoring.

Additionally we ordered off the menu a plate of tuna cheek. Oh man. This? Heaven. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Well worth the extra addition.

To finish off the meal, you had the option of green tea ice cream or mango ice cream. The green tea ice cream was superb. And the portion made it a perfect ending to the meal.

I would say, hands down, Sushi Taro was the best Restaurant Week experience I have ever had in D.C. And now I plan to return for a longer meal or hey, they have an awesome happy hour!

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