January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 62: Kotobuki

Sushi is such a delicate, ordered experience—a succession of discrete bites, each one a potential jewel—that eating a lot of it at one time is considered bad form. Then there’s what restrains many people from overordering—the prices.

No such worries at this Palisades restaurant—which explains why you see so many people toasting their good fortune around you. Good, cheap sushi? Who knew it was possible?

Hisao Abe, for one. He maintains a space the size of a studio apartment, oversees a staff of two, orders from a single supplier, rarely stocks anything new, and even plays just a single band—the Beatles.

Repeat customers know to forgo the rolls and concentrate on sashimi and nigiri—the yellowtail and white tuna are $1 a piece, the white-banded toro $1.50—and to trust where Abe’s small but unusual menu leads them.

That means accessorizing your order with the oshizushi —an Osaka-style preparation that sets a sweet, salty, opalescent-skinned filet of mackerel atop an inch-thick bed of rice—and one of the meal-in-one casseroles, such as the unadon, a bowl of sesame-dotted steamed rice crosshatched with thin, soy-marinated slivers of eel, or the kamameshi, which is unadon with a lid. They’re accompanied by a delicious quartet of teacups filled with the likes of seaweed, pickled mushrooms, and spicy lobster salad.

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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.