The black Japanese character dominating the main wall translates as “gathering place,” and that’s what this sushi house in DC’s Palisades is: On a weekday night the room throbs with happy diners. Perched above the better-known Makoto, Kotobuki boasts affordable prices and a quartet of sushi chefs slicing yellowtail, flounder, and eel.
The place is striking for its purity: no teriyaki, stir-fries, or noodle bowls, and no roster of boutique sakes—just one hot and one cold (Hakushika). But the shu mai dumplings filled with bits of shrimp are among the most delicate around, and kamameshi—rice casseroles cooked and served in iron kettles—are pure comfort. Try the one with chicken—eel and vegetables can be had too—and dig down for the crusty bits.
Save room for dessert: Pillows of ice cream wrapped in squares of mochi (glutinous rice) make for a pleasantly cool finish.
Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday for dinner.