Last night, Amy and I had our first dinner out with our son Noah. We were pretty nervous about what would happen. Would Noah fuss the entire time and make everybody's dinner miserable or would he be the adorable little angel that he usually is? Only time would tell.
We decided we wanted to go somewhere really casual. It'd been about nine months since Amy had eaten sushi, and she really had a craving for it -- I didn't blame her. If I'd gone that long without sushi, I'd probably go out of my mind.
I'd read about Kotobuki -- how its prices were extremely cheap and its sushi is optimally fresh. I figured this was a good time to try it. Getting to Kotobuki isn't the easiest task in the world. If you can find a direct route from Cleveland Park to Palisades, you know DC streets better than I. It took me a lot longer than it should've to get there.
On the way over, I could tell there was a possibility that Noah was going to have a fussy night. Usually a car ride puts him right to sleep, but this time he was fussing and crying on and off. Luckily, the drive was longer than I thought so he was asleep by the time we were there.
There's plenty of parking on the streets around Kotobuki, which is good because the only Metro access is via bus. The closest Metro station is Foggy Bottom.
The restaurant is located in a townhouse. The top level is Kotobuki, the ground floor is the restaurant's office and the bottom floor is Makoto, the excellent Japanese restaurant that DC Foodies are all too familiar with. I'm assuming that both Makoto and Kotobuki are owned by the same people, although I could be wrong.
We walked up to the second floor at about 8:30 PM. There isn't a whole lot of room up there. At the top of the stairs is a short sushi bar with five chairs. Around the room are small two-person tables that are as close to each other as seats on a Metro bus. Luckily, the waitress was able to clear a three-seater table in the corner so we didn't have to put Noah and his car seat on the floor.
There were a total of five people working the restaurant: two sushi chefs and three or four waitresses. I'd say the whole place can hold about 20 people at the most, and there was a full house that night.
The restaurant is decorated fairly makeshift, but with prices as cheap as you get at Kotobuki, who the hell cares. I took a look at the menu and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I mean, seriously, it's $1 a piece for most of the Nigiri Sushi and prices peak at $1.75 a piece for Toro (fatty tuna). Most rolls are $2.55 or $3 for six pieces. I wondered if I'd been caught in some worm hole and shot back to 1984.
Noah continued to be the little angel that he is. He just sat there quietly. I think The Beatles music playing over the speakers was soothing to him. Plus, I've noticed from our few trips to restaurants for lunch over the last couple weeks that he's at home at a restaurant. He likes the white noise in the background.
Ok, so what was the sushi actually like? Well, we waited a while for our sushi to come -- probably about 25 minutes, so keep in mind that I was famished by the time our food was brought to out table. Kotobuki is certainly not a place to go if you want a quick in-and-out bite to eat. We ordered a couple rolls and about six or so Nigiri: toro, salmon, yellowtail and scallop. Surprisingly enough, I thought the BBQ eel roll was one of the best I'd ever had. The spicy tuna roll was quite spicy -- not hot, but spicy, and they didn't use Tabasco like some places. I saw some red pepper in the tuna which is why I think it was better. Every once in a while though, I'd get a little chewy fat in the fish which I didn't like so much, but I learned to ignore it.
The scallop Nigiri was similar. The scallop tasted very fresh and practically melted in my mouth. I was enjoying it until I got a few crunches in the flesh of the scallop that sent my opinion of the scallop sushi southward. All of the other Nigiri were very fresh and tender though.
One thing worth mentioning is that there are only two beers on the menu: Bud and Sapporo. That's not much of a choice, but Sapporo is as good a beer as any other, especially with sushi. We asked for iced tea and the waitress brought out two cans of Japanese imported green tea. I would have sent it back, thinking it would be like some sweetened Nestea or something. But I was glad I didn't because it actually turned out to be quite tasty.
The bill was very cheap in the end. For four rolls, six Nigiri sushi, two iced teas and three beers, we paid less than $40. That would have run us at least $60 at Sushi Sushi or Spices and at least $80 at Sushi-Ko. Now was it as good as those other places? It was certainly better than the sushi at Sushi Sushi and Spices, although I'd say that Sushi-Ko was better. But twice as good? Probably not.
I'll finish this review with a cute Noah story....About halfway through eating our sushi, Noah started to cry. Amy picked him up and was successful at calming him down. I continued to eat and a little while later Amy handed him over to me so she could eat as well. I liked the BBQ eel roll so much I asked for another and that was where the fun started. Imagine eating sushi (with chopsticks) with one hand and rocking a baby with the other and all the while singing "Love Me Do" softly. I mastered that act quite well I believe. For my next great foodie feat, I'll do the same, but I'll eat a whole lobster at Oceanaire Seafood Room instead.
4822 MacArthur Blvd., NW
Tue-Sat: noon-3 PM
Tue-Thu: 5-11 PM
Fri-Sat: 5 PM-midnight
Sun: 5-10 pm
Dress Code: Casual
Smoking: Not Allowed
Closest Metro: Foggy Bottom
Parking: Ample street parking
Reservations: Not taken.