January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

Chef/owner Kazuhiro Okochi pairs inventive sushi with an interesting sake list.

No. 80: Kaz Sushi Bistro

There’s a reason Kaz Okochi calls this a bistro. The Osaka-trained chef might specialize in raw fish, but he’s constantly playing with Western flavors and sensibilities. Slices of trout are fashioned into a napoleon. Tuna is paired with kalamata olives. Seared bonito is set off by a chip of fried garlic.

Spicy tuna rolls and bento boxes fly from the kitchen at midday and early evening—a light, delicious repast for downtown-DC workers—but Okochi really wants diners to settle in for his creative renditions of nigiri with a carefully paired sake or perhaps a few courses of rustic Japanese cooking, such as a plate of seared beef with miso or a lacquered box of Asian short ribs.

He sweats the details—even the soy sauce is house-made—but sometimes you wonder if Okochi has tasted his concoctions: A sake-poached sea scallop has the eerie texture of tongue, and a stringy mound of blue crab gets no kick from a slice of red bell pepper. But a slice of salmon belly, buttery and lightly seared, is even more luscious with a slick of lemon and soy, and a barely caramelized scallop with lemon and sea salt is a delicious play of sweet and salty and sour.

At dessert time, skip the ginger crème brûlée and order a couple pieces of foie gras sushi with plum-wine jelly. Now there’s a marriage that works.

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 Petworth.