100 Best Restaurants 2008: Raku Bethesda

No. 97: Raku Bethesda

Cuisine: A mishmash of Asian cuisines (dashi with shrimp tempura, duck breast with five-spice powder) and pseudo-Asian fusions (a classic fruits de mer shot through with yuzu) coexist on this smartly curated menu.

Mood: Laughter and conversation abound in this usually crowded sushi bar and bistro with such playful design touches as hanging oversize chopsticks.

Best for: Groups looking to satisfy multiple tastes, daters looking for a spot that will casually impress.

Best dishes: Seoul Train roll, a mix of spicy kimchee and cool tuna; What a Match! roll, with apple and mackerel; sea-urchin sushi with quail egg, so custardy it tastes almost like dessert; tuna tartare with lemon-basil sauce; Thai-curry bouillabaise, the creamy broth teeming with lobster, mussels, and other seafood; beef tenderloin in red-wine-pomegranate sauce with roasted white yams; Chilean sea bass in a tangy ginger-tomato sauce.

Insider tips: The collision of cuisines might tempt you to order a meal made up of appetizers. But hold off on those fried dumplings and seafood spring rolls—the artful entrées are the best reason to come.

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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 Petworth.