100 Best Restaurants 2011: Kushi

No. 22

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

Lots of high-energy small-plates spots have opened, but there’s nothing like this high-minded izakaya, the Japanese word for a casual tavern that emphasizes food as much as drink.

Sushi is the draw, and the quality of the fish is exceptional. A few times a week, the kitchen serves an array of expensive but exquisite delicacies such as sea urchin straight from its spiny shell, fresh scallop, and moist chu-toro. The sushi chefs are learned and skilled—witness the rice in the nigiri, each grain light and distinct.

The robata, or grill, commands the room—flames leap from the pit a few times during dinner—but its treats, such as miso-marinated fish and roasted stuffed quail, are best regarded as accompaniments to the raw fish.

Kushi may not be for everyone—some will blanch at the prices, others will be put off by the trendiness and noise. But beneath the slick exterior beats the heart of a purist.

Also good: Sashimi of o-toro, salmon, yellowtail, yellowtail belly, and sweet shrimp; nigiri of mackerel, yellowtail, and salmon; bara chirashi, a jewel-like assortment of raw fish over a bowl of rice; chicken-and-scallion skewer; roasted corn on the cob with soy butter; skewered meatballs; Valrhona-chocolate and sea-salt gelati.

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Expensive.

>> See all of 2011's 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.