Bethesda Magazine’s Favorite New Restaurants
More than 70 restaurants have opened in the Bethesda area in the last two years. Food critic David Hagedorn chooses his 10 favorites.
1. Kobo at Sushiko
Monkfish liver “foie gras” topped with osetra caviar, persimmon purée and purple nasturtiums. Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg
In Chevy Chase, you walk through an excellent restaurant, Sushiko, to get to an extraordinary one called Kobo, a restaurant-within-a-restaurant that owner Daisuke Utagawa launched in late 2016. Kobo is a private counter where six diners experience a multicourse tasting menu crafted and served to them by Sushiko’s executive chef, Piter Tjan, who engagingly interacts with guests throughout the meal. The prix-fixe menu comes at a steep-but-worth-it price and seats are coveted, so book well in advance. Dinner costs $130 per person including tax and tip for an all-vegan menu offered on Tuesdays; $160 inclusive for the nonvegan menu offered Thursday through Saturday. The price goes up when you add quaffs from the beautifully curated wine list.
My tasting menu starts with tea (green tea and kelp) theatrically brewed before me in a tabletop siphon. The chef exchanges pleasantries with each of the guests and discovers in our conversation that I’m left-handed. “Ah, that’s important to know!” he says. “I will switch the angle of the nigiri I present to you so it will be more comfortable to pick up.” For the first course, a server proffers a covered dish, removing its lid to reveal a cloud of smoke hiding a medallion of monkfish liver “foie gras” topped with slate gray osetra caviar, persimmon purée and lush purple nasturtiums.
A sashimi course includes two generous slices each of decadent fatty tuna, lean tuna, house-cured and smoked Arctic char, and wild winter yellowtail, presented with a nest of bean thread, a pile of imported and freshly grated Japanese wasabi and a verdant shiso leaf.
For the nigiri courses, the chef uses akazu and red vinegar to make his sushi rice, imparting a brown hue. (Akazu is made from sake lees, the yeasty dregs left over after sake is made from rice.) He deftly molds small mounds of the rice, topping each with a pristine slice of fish. Among the dazzlers are cured snapper topped with julienned ginger blossom, and soy-marinated tuna with caviar and gold leaf. Next are two sushi courses: one a hand roll of fatty tuna; the other an oval nori cup filled with tartare made with the highest grade (A5) of Japan’s famed wagyu beef and gilded with a quail egg yolk.
The evening’s pièce de résistance isn’t fish; it’s a thick slice of deep-fried, medium-rare, panko-crusted A5 wagyu beef sirloin served on toasted housemade milk bread. If you have room for udon (thick Japanese noodles) and poached lobster in miso dashi broth, more power to you. Strawberry pannacotta is a light and refreshing coda to a revelatory dining experience.
5455 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase | 301-961-1644 | sushikorestaurants.com