News & Politics

January, 2006: Kotobuki

Not only does this tiny, nondescript walk-up share office space with Makoto--its elegant, expensive neighbor--it also shares a similar vision of purity and simplicity.

THE SCENE. Not only does this tiny, nondescript walk-up share office space with Makoto–its elegant, expensive neighbor–it also shares a similar vision of purity and simplicity. That vision, plus the cheap prices–owner and chef Hisao Abe maintains a small, unfussy menu–ensures a steady stream of customers, many of them Japanese patrons attracted to such rarities as oshizushi and kamameshi. Speaking of obsession: Abe keeps the Beatles playing on continuous loop.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. The purity and simplicity of Abe's approach, which eschews the flash and clever juxtapositions of ingredients that many sushi bars can't resist in favor of straightforward presentations of cool, shimmering slices of fish.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Rolls have a tendency to come apart too easily, leaving you to order more nigiri or sashimi than you might have expected; tables that will accommodate groups are hard to come by.

BEST DISHES. Oshizushi, with its brilliant, sweet slab of mackerel atop a long log of heavily vinegared rice, is a perfect introduction to this sometimes fishy fish; ankimo, or monkfish liver, is as creamy and rich as foie gras, at a fraction of the cost; kamameshi, little rice casseroles topped with eel, chicken, or vegetables and ringed by a handful of peppery snacks; a lobster nigiri that never tastes clotted or mayonnaisey; excellent yellowtail and white tuna; cold sake brought to the table in a wooden box with a tiny spoon for dabbing salt onto the edge of your cup.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

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