January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 52: Joss

Raw-fish fanciers can be single-minded, concentrating on nigiri and sashimi and ignoring whole swaths of a restaurant’s menu. No doubt this approach pays off at some places. Here it amounts to missing the forest for the trees.

That’s not to say the fish isn’t good and fresh. But to get the most out of Joss, a tiny bandbox of a restaurant, you have to paradigm-shift yourself away from ordering by the piece from the long printed sheets that constitute the à la carte menu.

Look to the bound menu, where the best dishes are canny in compensating for the inconsistent fish supply most sushi restaurants have to face, relying on fresh veggies and herbs and thoughtful arrangements of seemingly disparate ingredients.

A trio of toros served on oversize spoons is a sensuous essay in contrasting textures and intensities—a delightfully slippery toro topped with a soft purée of mountain yam; a melting, almost pork-belly-like toro; and a toro glistening with sesame oil and chili oil. Another trio, this one of fatty fishes, includes diced salmon belly crowned by baubles of salmon roe that counteract the buttery richness, and yellowtail topped with delicate bonito flakes. Slices of grilled mackerel are set alongside Japanese mustard greens slicked with a soy-citrus dipping sauce, and thick, pâté-soft slices of ankimo (monkfish liver) wrapped in soybean skin are played for drama against a crunchy seaweed salad.

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.