January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

A formal, spare Japanese dining room known for its omakase.

No. 41: Makoto

“Please take your shoes off.” The curtain parts. “Walk this way.” The 24 seats are so close together you might think you’ve walked onto a Barbie play set. A staff of satin-gowned women attends your every need—laying the napkin across your lap, adjusting the placement of your soup spoon, even cooking your food.

It’s service unlike that of any other Japanese restaurant in the area—any restaurant, period. But Makoto is an experience unlike any other, a place with such an emphasis on precision that you’re reminded of the reverence the Japanese accord the calligrapher or the martial-arts master. Ordering à la carte ensures that you get the tastes you want—the yellowtail jaw is terrific, as is a box of grilled eel shingled atop rice—but the measure of the place is in the omakase, a procession of small dishes doled out at the discretion of chef Takashi Okamura. It’s an intriguing ride: delicate soups, an assortment of pickled vegetables, juicy fishcakes.

The quality of the fish at Makoto once was unimpeachable; these days it’s merely very good. Take that into account, along with the prices, when deciding whether to supplement the omakase menu with an à la carte sushi order. The temptation is hard to resist, especially since the omakase is meant to be a gentle, not filling, repast. On that note, the yellowtail belly and giant scallop have been excellent bets.

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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.