Sculptures of simple wooden sailboats glide across the wall behind Sake House's sushi bar, where chefs bend intently over long filets of fresh fish. In front of them in the dining room, tables draped with tidy white tablecloths stand out against the dark, wooden walls, and platters littered with colorful sushi travel on the arms of servers. Behind the bar, bottles of chilled sake wear poetic labels such as "Bamboo Dew", "Soaring Cloud", and "Black River", and at hibachi tables, chefs deftly manipulate their knives across steaks and lobsters or carve their initials into broccoli trees.
The sounds of sputtering grill tops, clattering utensils, and lively conversation fill the dining room at Honey Pig Restaurant, earning it praise from the Washington Post in 2010 as "one of the most entertaining barbecues around." The menu brims with both familiar and adventurous meats, including pork belly, beef ribs, and pork neck. Diners soak in Korean culture via both the food and K-pop, selecting a protein-rich spread and watching as the servers sear their orders on solar-heated tableside grills.
Red paper lanterns dangle from the ceiling at Ikko Sushi, casting a warm glow on careful arrangements of colorful sushi. Displays of fresh fish line the sushi bar, where chefs assemble salmon, eel, and crab into kaleidoscopes of texture and color, adorning them with extravagant flourishes of spicy sauce, wasabi, and shredded Japanese currency. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, pots bubble with rice and noodles, as grills sizzle with teriyaki beef, chicken, and pork. Servers tote dishes and cups of imported beer and sake out to tabletops that speckle both the interior and outdoor front patio.
Aged wine? Yes. Aged cheese? Sure. But aged noodles? You wouldn’t expect it, but after noodles arrive from Sapporo, Japan, Ren’s staff stores them at a specific temperature and humidity to bring out their ideal texture and flavor. Once noodles are at their peak, the staff plops them into steaming bowls of ramen.
Wasabi Zen's chefs slice, dice, and coil savory morsels of crab, eel, salmon, and fried shrimp into more than 50 sushi rolls splashed with mild and spicy sauces. Pay homage to Mother Nature without building her another recyclable spice rack by sampling the Green Tree roll ($10.95), an epicurean jungle lush with crab, cucumber, eel, and masago. The Hawaiian Sunset roll ($11.95) invokes tropical vistas through its plethora of salmon and pineapple, and the Hot Knight roll ($14.95)—an off-menu item available by request— jousts taste buds with fried shrimp and spiced shrimp and crab. Alternatively, dishes of traditional aged tofu ($5.95) or edamame ($4.95) offer meat-free options that forgo the tossing and turning of salads and soy-tracked rollercoasters.
Yosaku Japanese Restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue is all about their fresh fish. The top-grade sushi and sashimi joint in the Tenleytown neighborhood offers happy hour specials, lunch deals and casual dinner options for anyone seeking recently caught fish, be it in sushi roll form or as part of the restaurant’s expanded dinner menu. Inside the smallish space, eaters will find tight seating and a few token Japanese touches, like a stand of fake bamboo or the rock-filled straw basket that rests near the front door. Little else gets in the way at Yosaku, which offers teriyaki bowls, noodles and soups in addition to the rolls from the sushi bar in back. Despite the no-frills décor, this spot has been a popular local option for inexpensive sushi and cheap bento boxes since the 1980s.