As the Dupont Circle area, P Street in particular, has been under renovation for quite some time, we can expect more trendy storefronts, bars and lounges popping up in the area. However, this particular neighborhood has always housed successful independent businesses that not only add to its charm but mark it as a Washington, D.C. hot-spot. Uni: A Sushi Place is one of those businesses that continues to thrive despite being overlooked by the masses.
Uni’s reputation is well deserved. Aesthetically-speaking, it is absolutely beautiful and one can’t help but think of Hollywood glamour as they walk through the door. The front dining deck overlooks the upcoming, revitalized west side of Dupont Circle through large windows, while the back offers more spacious seating with dark wood tables, paneled walls and hanging lights. The under-utilized bar area is an intimate alcove, perfect for a quiet conversation over appetizers and mixed drinks.
For the sushi lover, you’ll find few comparisons in the entire region. Uni offers traditional favorites along with their own specialties. Sushi and sashimi pieces are served in generous portions and always fresh. However, since their opening in 2000, Uni has not only provided excellent quality with traditional servings, but also strives to break the barrier, says manager James Tan, with their more experimental selections. He describes sushi as a focus on presentation and taste, both of which are delicate and precise. However, with some of Uni’s in-house specials, Tan prides his entrees to also possess some of the aromas that one would expect from fine Italian cuisine. Specialty nigiri pieces and rolls are designed to also heighten and delight a customer’s sense of smell as well as taste. In particular, the Seared Salmon Nigiri consists of fresh salmon pieces, lightly coated with soy sauce, lightly seared with a blowtorch and topped off with mint leaves. The Chai Tea Smoked Tuna Nigiri actually fuses both the Chai leaves and tuna slices together to create a wonderful sweet and smoky flavor. Both orders come with two pieces and cost $5.50. Other traditional sushi rolls also get a make-over. One popular menu item commonly found in most sushi restaurants is the Spider Roll with soft shell crab. At Uni, it becomes the Black Widow Roll, adding a delicious miso and lemon-lime sauce.
In addition to the extensive menu of sushi items, Uni’s extensive bar selection is a welcome change to the typical happy hour. Along with a full bar, Uni offers an extensive menu of traditional Sake, Japanese rice wine, twenty-four brands to be exact. Two favorites are the Momokawa Infused Sakes, served chilled in single wood-box cups, carafes for two or a full bottle. The Asian Pear mixes the delicate earthy flavor with a light sweet aftertaste, while the Black Raspberry has a thicker flavor, perfect for fans of red wine. With specialty sakes running from $6-$7 per person and premium sakes from $8-$12, these are high-end treats that any budget can afford and are perfect for dates or celebrations. The Sake Samplers are another way to enjoy several different brands at once, each sampler costing between $9-$12. And for groups looking for a classy evening starter, the “Sake-tini Hour” is one of the best happy hours in town. Sake-Martinis, beers and rail drinks are only $3.50. To whet your appetite, kitchen appetizers such as Edamame, Picante Mussels or the Wasabi Shumai (shrimp and pork dumplings) are only $3, as well as the sushi happy hour menu, which gives you six pieces of a traditional roll for only $3.50. “Sake-tini Hour” runs Monday through Friday from noon 12-2pm and again from 5-7pm.
While the neighborhood is still changing, Uni has solidified itself as a definite personality that help defines Dupont Circle. Unlike some of the pretentious Asian-fusion eateries, Uni knows how to preserve the classic, while making improvements for the future. And while I think it is hard to do sushi wrong, Uni proves it can be done right.
Uni: A Sushi Place
2122 P Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30am-2:00pm
Dinner: Monday-Thursday 5:00pm-10:00pm