In a town where any big decision risks alienating half the
population, you might think choosing Washington’s best sushi restaurant
would be hard. Not so: The undisputed winner is Sushi Taro, the Dupont
Circle hideaway where raw fish and vinegared rice is elevated to an almost
The surprise is that the restaurant, now in its 27th year,
wouldn’t even have figured into the conversation about the area’s best
until four years ago, when it undertook a gutsy and radical makeover.
Weeks before Christmas 2008, chef/owner Nobu Yamazaki announced he was
shuttering the place to upgrade the dining room and menu. In light of the
economic downturn, the decision to transform Taro from a bustling
neighborhood sushi joint into a serene—and expensive—getaway seemed
foolhardy. Many customers rebelled.
But today Yamazaki appears visionary. Taro is a destination,
and the surge of interest in authentic Japanese cuisine in Washington can
be traced to the values he’s committed to: aggressive sourcing (Yamazaki
has a daily order with Japan’s Tsukiji market), keen attention to detail,
fastidious adherence to traditional values (no restaurant cares more about
its rice-making), and a desire to nudge diners toward the arcane. You’re
likelier to encounter a plate of beef tongue in miso than a spicy tuna
The demise of the old Taro was no small loss for its neighbors.
But for a city with an insatiable appetite for sushi and few places to
exult in it, the reborn Taro has been a monumental gain.
This article appears in the November 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.