100 Best Restaurants 2009: Sushi-Ko – Washington

No. 29: Sushi-Ko

Cuisine: DC’s first sushi bar opened more than a quarter of a century ago in Glover Park. It remains the best, procuring its fish five times a week—most sushi bars have a standing order for two days a week—and upholding founder Daisuke Utagawa’s adherence to purity and simplicity. Still, that designation hardly does justice to the variety of plates on offer here or at the newer Chevy Chase location.

Mood: The Glover Park branch is serene and simple, outfitted on the cheap—strings of lights, molded plastic chairs—in an austere style that stops just short of trendy. The hushed quietude encourages diners to focus on the subtlety of the flavors. Sushi-Ko Chevy Chase is bigger and more dramatic, with high-backed booths, a long, eye-catching sushi bar, and a soundtrack out of a European nightclub.

Best for: A leisurely lunch or a light and restorative dinner.

Best dishes: Smoked-mussel-and-eggplant miso; rock-shrimp-and-asparagus tempura; Tuna Five Ways, a progressive tasting of the prized fish concluding with a meltingly rich slab of o-toro; beef tataki made with tenderloin; salmon with red and white miso; selections of sashimi including yellowtail, scallop, eel, and uni.

Insider tips: The handful of Burgundies on the wine list—Utagawa discovered years ago that they go surprisingly well with the nigiri and sashimi—are as good as any of the chilled sakes on offer.

Service: ••½

DC branch open Sunday and Monday for dinner, Tuesday through Friday for lunch and dinner; Chevy Chase open daily for lunch and dinner. Moderate to expensive. 

See all of 2009's 100 Best Restaurants

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.