Wednesday, January 11, 2012

DC Restaurant Week: Sushi Taro

2 out of 4 stars. "Pass"

Japanese 7
Simple or lacking?
I have to be honest...I wasn't a huge fan of Sushi Taro. For the price and the hype, I don't think it was worth it.

Don't get me wrong, the quality of the sashimi slices was impeccable - thick, firm cuts of fish without a trace of fishy smell. The service was strong (but I expect that everywhere). The presentation was lacking. Tempura was oily.  And the pre-added wasabi over-powered the sushi selections. For a $100+ tab for two (dinner, wine, tasting flight), I would go somewhere else.

But before I continue, I will caveat this review. I eat sushi. Well....I'll eat most sushi (minus sea urchin). And I know I don't have the "palette" to discern $10 slices of tuna sashimi versus $7 slices of tuna sashimi. $3 happy hour Cafe Asia sashimi slices? Well, yes....

For me, its like wine. I know when I'm drinking a bladder of boxed wine but with a $25 bottle, $40 bottle, and $70 bottle of wine, it isn't always easy to determine which is best (and when did price suddenly associate with the best quality?).

However, because of this gap, I'm looking for everything else to appeal to me: atmosphere, presentation, texture, creativity, uniqueness, and complex flavors. Maybe Sushi Taro would work for a sashimi purest, but not for that remaining 98% of us.

I would choose Oya over Sushi Taro. The Oya rolls are fucking amazing - the spicy crunchy tuna one especially.

The opening consisted of a 3-box small tasting:
  • 1st box: soba noodle
  • 2nd box: fine cuts of sashimi
  • 3rd box: sunomono
The soba noodle was presented in a small bowl layered in a light miso broth with thinly sliced scallions and a small fish cake. Plain but probably a good opening. The slice of Salmon and Red Snapper showed the quality of fish that Sushi Taro serves. Both were mild. Nothing crazy. But I guess its tough to make a slice of fish exciting...

I struggled to eat the sunomono with chopsticks - the cube-like mixture of pate (I think), seaweed, vinegar, and jelly kept falling apart so I struggle with being able to have all the ingredients come together in a single thought (foodie word for "bite").  It was the most unique but not strong eough to make me order it again.

Warm Dish Choice, choose one:
  • Black cod marinated yu-an soy sauce
  • Angus Beef Sukiyaki
  • Wild prawn & Veggies Tempura
Black Cod and the "swirl"
The black cod was the highlight of the meal; The thick cut of cod felt similar to a serving of Chilean sea bass (but slightly less fatty and "buttery"), which had a slight coating of sauce that was akin to a brush of mild ponzu/miso sauce. The cod was accompanied by a unique spiral of crab and ginger wrapped in a thick cut of seaweed. Huge contrast in texture between the swirl and the cod but flavor-wise, I didn't think they went together very well.

My date had the vegetable and prawn tempura. Previous reviews had mentioned the prawns came full-bodied (yes I know I'm not talking about wine...) so I was excited to enjoy the sweetness of the head. But to my dismay, they were headless. The dish was a tad heavy on tempura batter, which consequently, overpowered the vegetables choices. I was looking for light with a focus on the vegetable but I tasted more oil than vegetable.

Sushi Choice, choice one (plus a California roll or Spice tuna roll):
  • Regular 7: tuna, salmon shrimp, eel, yellow-tail, white fish, omelet
  • Japanese 5: Octopus, Mackerel, Tuna, Raw sweet (botan) shrimp), Red snapper
  • Special 4: Fatty tuna, Wagyu, JPN fish, salmon caviar or sea urchin
The quality of the sashimi slices was very good; I was particularly impressed with the knife work for the raw shrimp and mackerel. We were, however, surprised at the amount of wasabi included on a few of the sushi pieces. On one or two pieces, it was overpowering and unfortunately, masked the potential flavor of the sushi. The added spicy tuna roll was your standard, run-of-the-mill, mixed tuna-spiciness mush that could've been made anywhere. Next please.

  • Green Tea or Mango ice cream cream is ice cream.

The presentation of each dish was very simple and I could go either way on arguing that the chef was trying to let the food speak for itself; however, it just seemed.....lacking. No color on the tempura dish. No complex flavors.

So that's my review. I'm by no means a sushi connoisseur but if you're reading this review and thinking about going to Sushi Taro for restaurant week, you're probably in that 98 percentile. And you could maybe choose somewhere else, but if you go, don't expect mind-blowing.

I have to admit, we wandered over to Urbana a little later, relaxed at the lounge, drank cocktails, then demolished an impressive salsiccia (sopressata, onions, olives, artichokes, and Italian sausage) flatbread.

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