When was the last time I went out for sushi or Japanese izakaya? For the first, I've lost track and for the second, um, that would be never. Oops! Luckily, the situation was easily remedied by heading over to Mt. Vernon Square and trying Kushi tonight.
Word on the street is that the kushiyaki and robata items from Kushi are excellent, but the draw is sushi, and the best of that is whatever's fresh on the menu for the day. We stuck to the specials tonight and were so not disappointed. The snapper (so good as nigiri we got an extra order as sashimi), chu-toro sashimi special, and maguro temaki were good enough that I would go back knowing I could get them (a toss-up given that two of the three were specials). However, due to a bit of a service snafu we didn't get our seared beef and scallion temaki in time, so we got a free pork belly and watercress temaki. These were dueling hand rolls and almost stunningly flavorful, with the pork having a slight edge over the beef; the rice was good, neither too vinegared nor with an edge of formed-in-advance staleness; and I honestly want to eat both of them again, right now, despite the fact that -- as much as I am a bottomless pit when it comes to awesome sushi -- I am so stuffed.
I've heard others who talked about mushrooms earlier, but I have to say that the grilled maitake and eringi, with an extra dish of the grilled Japanese eggplant, were outstanding tonight, and a fantastic value for the money -- these were huge as small plates go, and personally I could eat mushrooms every meal of my life and be happy, so it was a win-win. The maitake might have been my favorite: woodsy without being woody, earthy without tasting dirty, and enhanced by a brief dip in soy, they were both comforting and exciting. The grilled squid was also actually a massive plate of food, but the squid had both a lovely char and a great marinade. This dish is honestly too much squid at a time, even if you're sharing it, but the flavor and technique are there, so it's not a bad option, particularly if you're hungry.
I tried a cucumber "saketini" that I asked to be made on the not-sweet side. Most of the summer cocktails include a distinct sugar component, which is just not my thing -- I want my drink to have a bite and not be a dessert in itself. The bar obligingly made this sans sugar and it was so nice with the sushi parts of the meal. I forgot to specify gin instead of vodka so it wasn't entirely what I wanted, but still, it more than held up.
(The women sitting next to us were discussing the menu and one of them told her companion, "Well, you know I don't eat fish." Honestly, not that I would try to convert an anti-fish-eater via raw fish, but -- really? Then again, someone didn't snatch the chu-toro special out from under me, so I guess I'm thankful for small favors.)
Oh -- I should note that I did this with the LivingSocial coupon ($25 for $50 of food and drink). I'd paid my $25 long ago so that was a sunk cost, and I tipped on the full bill plus the comped temaki that was totally unnecessary -- I expect things that are being run among a sushi bar, robata grill, and kushiyaki station to come at different times -- but even so, the full price was actually more than reasonable for the sheer amount of food. The staff were completely gracious about the coupon. If this is what Kushi is putting out on a Saturday night (they were packed to the gills [pun intended] by the time we left a little past 9), then I wish them all the good will in the world, and intend to go back if possible for a maki or two and some grilled eggplant at the very least.