At HeeBeen Asian Bistro, visitors delight in a culinary exploration that’s aided by a wide buffet counter topped with myriad dishes that invite sampling. Trays of Korean barbecue meats lay next to hot entrees of ramen, teriyaki, tempura, and oysters rockefeller. After trips to the sushi section, patrons’ chopsticks grip morsels of unagi nigiri, slices of sashimi, or pieces of a smoked sake crunch roll. While enjoying their spread, patrons sit beneath ceiling-mounted cubes lit from within, comforted by sleek woods that dominate the dining room. And behind one of the buffets, a glass case shows off small pieces of art beneath clusters of small fairy lights.
At Hikaru Sushi, seasoned chefs mold the sea's freshest specimens into more than 70 types of maki and nigiri. In addition to constructing classic California rolls from crab sticks and cucumbers, they whisk taste buds to the frontier of the sushi realm with colorful fruit maki and a deep-fried Virginia roll stuffed with asparagus, cream cheese, and yellowtail. The eponymous Hikaru bento box pairs a choice of five sushi rolls with hot teriyaki and an Asian amuse-bouche such as gyoza or shumai, and the Hikaru maki teams crispy shrimp tempura with a mayo that has more kick than a Rockette who took tae kwon do lessons as a child. To end the meal on a sweet note, guests can nibble desserts such as mango sherbet and tempura ice cream on the restaurant's outdoor patio.
Kanpai Japanese Restaurant encourages diners to raise their glasses over platefuls of fresh sushi and traditional Japanese entrees. Inside the restaurant—which takes its name from a word that means “cheers!” —patrons gather around the sushi bar and watch as chefs set pieces of yellowtail, white tuna, and smoked salmon over rice and slice up various specialty rolls. Meanwhile, the wait staff carries salmon and chicken teriyaki from the grill to dining room tables both indoors and out. Throughout meals, patrons can sip wine and sake, or kick back with a bottle of Japanese beer.
Hungry twosomes can warm up palates with organic tofu miso soup and a starter to share, such as a Dragon Taco, a combination of eel, cucumber, and salsa tucked inside a grilled-tortilla sleeping bag. The second course confronts chopsticks with two of more than 35 special rolls, including the Crunchy Infinity, a symphony of shrimp tempura, spicy crab, cucumber, masago, and crunch flakes, and the Out of Control, which attacks tongues with tuna, salmon, soft-shell crab, and spicy tuna, all drizzled with spicy aioli. Special rolls are then sidekicked by a choice of two classic maki such as California rolls, spicy-scallop rolls, and Spider rolls—deep-fried soft-shell crab dressed in the finest bright-orange masago overcoats.
Though the interior of Japanese' Kitchen takes a modern approach to traditional Asian décor, its lunch and dinner menus are filled with authentic Japanese cuisine. On traditional hibachi grills, chefs-turned-showmen sizzle morsels of marinated chicken, NY strip steak, and lobster alongside fresh vegetables. At the sushi bar, maki-makers hand craft spicy tuna, tempura shrimp, and California rolls in a less flashy display. For more unique flavors, Japanese' Kitchen’s serves up appetizers of tempura-fry calamari and cap meals with desserts such as housemade crème brulee infused with green tea and cream harvested from the brulee tree. Japanese' Kitchen also stocks a selection of imported Japanese drinks including Echigo Koshi Hikari rice lager, Junmai sake, and Ramune orange soda.
Located above Makoto, one of DC’s highest-rated (and most expensive) Japanese restaurants, Kotobuki offers nearly the same great tastes for a fraction of the price. Sushi, sashimi and kamameshi are top sellers inside the tiny space, which at first glance seems more like a quaint brick home than casual sushi joint. Kotobuki offers six or eight tables, plus seats at the sushi bar. Not a bad seat, considering that’s where the action is anyway. If your stomach is already groaning, it’s best to get to a table early or try to arrive late, as the diminutive room means a line can form in a snap. You could always order takeout, but then you’d be missing out on the atmosphere, including Kotobuki’s Beatles-heavy soundtrack.