Born and raised in Nagoya, Japan, Chef Kazuhiro Okochi spent years mastering the deceptive simplicity of traditional Japanese cuisine. After graduating from the Tsuji Culinary Institute, he remained in Osaka for an additional five years, formally studying the intricacies of sushi preparation. This highly practiced attention to detail is apparent at Kaz Sushi , where Chef Okochi's staff seeks out a specific strain of domestic, short-grain rice, tailoring the amount of water as well as the length of the cooking time to account for the season and even the day's weather. They also import soy sauce from a microbrewery in Japan (and make their own, individual blend in-house), and they even use aged red rice vinegar instead of more conventional varieties that haven't had a chance to really live yet. However, Chef Okochi isn't interested in merely recreating centuries-old Japanese recipes--he fully commits to modernizing these perfected dishes by introducing Western flavors. Chef Okochi refers to this culinary style as "freestyle Japanese cuisine," and it is easy to see why: sushi rolls can contain inventive additions such as mint, pickled pineapple and basil, or even spicy tomato sauce. Diners can order from the menu or choose to place their full faith in Chef Okochi and his team by ordering one of several "omakase" tasting menus that allow the chefs complete freedom to use the day's freshest seafood and produce to make flavorful--and occasionally original--creations. As The Washington Post described the experience, "to eat omakase at Kaz Sushi Bistro is to watch a little magic show-and to stretch your idea of Japanese cuisine."
Sushi, American Style
Sushi purists will find much to please the palate at Sticky Rice, like deep red tuna sashimi, delicately sweet squid, and tender broiled eel. But this eatery also specializes in playful fusion. Regulars swear by the Bucket of Tots, which is exactly what it sounds like: a heaping bucket of hot, crisp tater tots served with a signature dipping sauce. Wasabi-laced burgers, spicy-sweet ribs, and ahi-tuna sandwiches are a few other non-traditional favorites. And hosted events such as karaoke, bingo, and DJ'd dance parties keep the ambience here as unconventional as the menu.
A Haven for Meat-Free Foodies
"You're never stuck eating avocado rolls at Sticky Rice," according to the Washington Post, which named the spot one of DC's best restaurants for vegetarians and vegans. Instead, meat-free diners have their pick of options such as Garden Balls?a vegan dish consisting of bean-curd pockets that chefs stuff with shiitake mushrooms, peppers, and spicy rice before deep-frying. For extra (though un-vegan) zing, try the cucumber-and-cream-cheese G.I. Jane roll; it's rolled in a coating of crushed wasabi peas.
Jerry Bailey began homebrewing with friends in 1989, hopeful that the craft would bring fulfillment that his 9-to-5 failed to provide. Fulfillment it brought, along with numerous batches of tasty brew. Bailey couldn’t keep his inventions to himself; he quickly decided to open his own brewhouse as well as distribute his goods to other local establishments.
Today, Bailey proudly stands at the helm of both Old Dominion Brewhouse and Old Dominion Brewing Company. In the pub, chefs add variety to liquid meals with food such as burgers, crab cakes, and thin-crust pizzas while 30 flat-screen televisions keep patrons entertained with sports. The chefs also exhibit flair for Asian cuisine, slicing and rolling sushi and offering create-your-own mongolian stir-fries. At the bar, eight handles remain perpetually reserved for Old Dominion's craft beers, such as the award-winning Baltic porter and the Oak Barrel stout, which is loaded with flavors of vanilla and the color brown.
Ask the chefs at Asian Spice about their countries of origin, and you'll hear tales of pristine beaches in Thailand, emerald mountains in Vietnam, and sleek cities in Japan. These chefs pull from their diverse culinary traditions to create a pan-Asian menu, folding fresh fish, tender duck, and juicy lamb into dishes from across Asia. Pots of Indian, Thai, and Malaysian curry simmer on stovetops, as chefs grill Korean barbeque and tender Laotian steak. They also plate lump crab cakes alongside Asian slaw and spicy remoulade, a locally inspired dish lauded by reporters from DC Metro Magazine. Meanwhile, behind the sushi station, chefs slice up fresh salmon, yellowtail, and eel for specialty rolls.
Out in the sleek three-floored dining room, bartenders take the reigns, skillfully whipping up specialty cocktails and doling out glasses of craft beer and champagne. As they dine, guests admire Asian artwork on the walls from seats at glossy black tables, their faces illuminated by flickering candles. And on warm days, diners can sup in the outdoor patio, where bright red umbrellas shade tables from the sun. The restaurant also hosts karaoke in their private dining area, ideal for guests who are eager to sing their favorite tunes for an audience rather than just polite mailmen and taxi drivers.
Caf? Asia's menu reads like a jetsetter's dream itinerary. Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, and Vietnam. These seven East Asian countries may be the starting point for the eclectic lineup of spring rolls, ramen, fried rice, panggang, and noodle bowls, but it's Caf? Asia's chefs who take it to new places. The Vietnamese grilled pork demands special attention; chefs marinate the meat overnight with lime, garlic, fish sauce, and pepper. Caf? Asia could easily stand on its own as a sushi bar, however. Contemporary twists on traditional rolls have led to creations such as the eight-piece cajun roll with crawfish tail, sriracha, spicy mayo, and diced jalape?o, which is the world's spiciest fish.
The food's diversity has won many fans. In an article published on January 3, 2011, Examiner.com rightly noted that the restaurant has "enough choices to please almost any palate." The Washington Post also noted that the restaurant has hosted such distinguished guests as Dr. Jill Biden. Two full-service bars and a lounge allow Caf? Asia to host a slate of special events each year, including its New Year's Eve party.