Let’s get this out of the way up front. If you want cheap, affordable sushi, then Sushi Taro is not the place for you. If, rather, you want a restaurant with some of the freshest fish in the District and care to sample an authentic Japanese dining experience, then look no further.
The restaurant, situated on the corner of 17th and P, just three blocks east of Dupont Circle, offers a wide array of healthy-sized sushi, the freshness of which will have you convinced that you’re sitting dock-side in Kyoto.
For me, that’s the difference maker. If I wanted a roll for under $5, I’d snap up a prepared platter at Trader Joe’s or Harris Teeter and be satisfied that it tasted like the fish came from a pet shop aquarium. If I wanted a $1 piece of nigiri, I’d swing by happy hour at Café Asia and be content with the pinky-finger-sized slices of fish. In both instances I might satiate my fish craving, but with a trip to Sushi Taro, I’ll be working up new cravings with each bite.
This is particularly true with the restaurant’s namesake cut, Toro (fatty tuna). Topped with a dash of homemade wasabi, each piece melts in your mouth with a creaminess that reminds of filet mignon in a kind of horseradish hollandaise sauce. A more delightful sensation I have never found — in any cuisine. Had I known the dish was so amazing, I would have long ago been chumming the tuna-laden waters off Japan with buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Aside from the blatant environmental violations of such a practice, it may not be such a bad idea given that the one drawback of the Toro is its “market price” (usually around $25). Despite that figure, you’ll be hard pressed to pass it up after tasting it for the first time.
All of the other standard cuts are available, with the salmon and non-fatty tuna serving as standbys for the unadventurous. Last visit, I ordered the Chirashi sushi ($22), an assortment of sashimi on a bed of rice. That’s an order that includes lots of anonymous fish and at least one identifiable piece of octopus. It’s also an order I seldom make unless I’m comfortable with the restaurant. Call me particular, but when I’m dealing with uncooked fish, a substance that could render you very, very ill, I’m willing to pay the extra few bucks to have it done right.
All up, however, Sushi Taro’s prices are not outrageously pricier than other sushi restaurants and the return on your investment is rather high.
From the moment you walk up stairs you can bet on being greeted fervently and often in Japanese by the restaurant’s hosts, waitresses and sushi chefs. As I wound my way from the entrance, along the roughly 40-foot sushi bar and to my table overlooking the bustling 17th Street corridor, I must have been greeted by no fewer than 10 employees.
For a more authentic cultural experience, try kneeling at the Japanese-style tables. They are popular, so make sure you make your reservations in advance. And if you’re knees are as bad as mine, make sure to schedule a cortisone injection just before mealtime.
If you or someone in your party doesn’t exactly fiend for raw fish, then you can try any number of the restaurant’s other entrees, like the Yakitori Assortment, various skewered meats and vegetables ($14). Sushi Taro also offers standards like Chicken Teriyaki and various tempura dishes. If you prefer steak to fish but still crave a little high-priced adventure, ask for the Kobe beef sashimi (market price).
You can wash all of it down with complimentary green tea and then top off the meal with some green tea ice cream, which tastes far better than it sounds.
If you’re bargain hunting for raw fish in D.C., frankly, you will get everything you deserve. Sushi Taro, on the other hand, delivers a proper sushi experience and is well worth the price on the final bill.
1530 17th St. NW, D.C.
Mon. – Thurs.: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5:30 – 10 p.m.
Fri.: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5:30 – 10:30 p.m.
Sat.: 5:30 – 10:30 p.m.