100 Best Restaurants 2008: Kotobuki

No. 65: Kotobuki

Cuisine: Sushi as good as it is cheap. Chef/owner Hisao Abe keeps his menu small and focused, doesn’t experiment, and maintains a tiny kitchen and waitstaff—which is how he can charge a pittance for consistently fresh fish.

Mood: Like the Beatles? You’d better. Because beyond the fish, the continuous loop of the Fab Four (Abe is a fanatic) is all there is to engage your imagination at this nondescript Palisades walkup.

Best for: Those in need of a regular sushi fix but who lack the steady funds.

Best dishes: Oshizushi, a long, Osaka-style roll that shows off a sweet, salty slab of mackerel; thin disks of monkfish liver, known as ankimo, moistened with soy vinaigrette; à la carte selections of nigiri and sashimi, among which uni, yellowtail, scallop, and white tuna are the standouts; eel kamameshi, the glazed, broiled fish atop a hot mound of rice; cold sake in a wooden box with a small spoon for trailing a line of salt on the lip before drinking; green-tea mochi, a lightly sweet, chewy treat to finish with.

Insider tips: Seek out the so-called fishier fishes—eel, mackerel—and the excellent rice casseroles, or kamameshi, which Abe accessorizes with a quartet of small, pungently flavored side dishes.

Service: ••

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.