100 Best Restaurants 2008: Makoto

No. 32: Makoto

Cuisine: At a time when everything from Peking duck to papaya is showing up in sushi preparations, this Palisades kitchen stays loyal to tradition. You’ll find artfully cut sushi and sashimi with fresh wasabi—a revelation if you’re used to the paste found at most places—earthy broths swirling with soba noodles, and an array of high-end sakes.

Mood: Slip off your shoes and take a seat on a wooden box in this serene, teak-paneled space barely bigger than an apartment living room. The music is so subtle that you may not even notice it, but the serving dishes and sake carafes are eye-catching works of art.

Best for: Quietly celebrating a special occasion, feeling as if you’re taking a mini-vacation, getting a sushi fix.

Best dishes: The eight-to-ten-course prix-fixe meal changes often. Recent highlights have included ginger-charged soup with fat mussels; Chilean sea bass brushed with soy; crab salad with mango, red pepper, and fried dumpling skins; soba noodles with mushroom; and perfectly sliced tuna and yellowtail sushi with fresh ginger.

Insider tips: The $60 prix-fixe menu is the way to go, but be prepared to pay supplements. Tap water isn’t offered, and sake supplements and sashimi upgrades—the fatty yellowtail and toro are excellent—can bump the bill up to the $100-a-person range. Request a seat at the long chef’s counter, where you can watch the chef skillfully work his knives.

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.