I have always steered very clear of Restaurant Week (RW) in DC in the past for many reasons. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, RW happens twice a year – once in January and once in August – and many restaurants offer 3 course lunches for $20.12 or 3 course dinners for $35.12 for the entire week. A lot of big cities around the country do restaurant week, and it’s supposed to be a good opportunity to try out restaurants you might not be able to afford otherwise, or just ones you’ve wanted to try and haven’t gotten around to.
When I go out to eat, I don’t normally order 3 courses for myself, so that’s a big part of the reason I avoid it. Also, having worked in the restaurant business myself, RW was always so chaotic that the service offered was never up to par with regular standards, and the food was never as good. On top of all that, I never planned for it in advance, so by the time I even contemplated checking somewhere out, all the good places have been taken.
This time around for some reason, as soon as the email went out announcing restaurant week a month or two ago, I made a reservation at several fancy schmancy places I’ve been wanting to try but haven’t gotten around to. I wasn’t even sure if I’d make it out to any of the places but figured reservations couldn’t hurt in case I did want to go when the time came. After that, I sort of forgot about my inclination to make so many reservations, until I got a reminder from OpenTable of all my reservations coming up.
The one that made the cut was Sushi Taro, an upscale, authentic Japanese restaurant located in the Dupont Circle area.
I’d heard great things about the restaurant and had been wanting to try it for some time, but it’s quite expensive so definitely would be more of a special occasion place than a don’t feel like cooking sort of night out. After doing some browsing about DC restaurant week on the web, I read a lot about it being a good value for RW, so at that point I was sold.
My date for the night was my good friend Elena, and we had gone back and forth pouring over the menu all week leading up to our reservation since we found it on their facebook page.
The deal for restaurant week there is that you get four courses for the $35.12. The tasting menu that you get normally costs $80, and doesn’t include the dessert, so it was certainly a good deal. We also ended up both getting the pairings, which brought the cost up to $50 per person, but was totally worth it in my opinion.
The first course was a box tasting plate that had three items that you didn’t get to choose.
It came with a 5 oz. pour of Kirin Ichiban beer, which was a nice accompaniment.
Starting from the right, there was a soba noodle dish with tempura pieces, nori, and fried scallion in a light soy dressing. This had such a nice blend of textures and flavors and really tasted wonderful. My only complaint is that there wasn’t a little more!
The middle had four small pieces of sashimi – two salmon and two yellowfin tuna. The fish was as fresh as could be and literally melted in my mouth – absolutely delicious.
The left side had the weirdest thing of the evening.
Jelly coated crab in a creamy corn sauce, garnished with a slice of okra.
Now I normally consider myself a VERY adventurous eater, but I just could not get down with this. I tried it, but the jelly coating was flavorless gelatin and just didn’t do it for me at all. The other two parts of this tasting box were so awesome though that it made up for this part of the dish for sure.
The second course was the only hot course and one where we had a choice. In addition to what we both ordered, there was a 10 hour braised black pork belly with sweetened soy sauce or a tempura fried softshell crab with vegetables. We were both trying to be healthy, but after seeing the softshell crab come out for other tables, I would definitely give that one a try if you need a little tempura in your life.
The dish we both went with was a black cod marinated in a sweet soy sauce, which was also awesome.
It came with a piece of eggplant and a sweet pepper, and was very buttery and delicious. It was cooked with the skin on so the fish was very flavorful, yet mild, and was just the right size.
This warm course came with two small pours of sake, one filtered and one unfiltered.
The sake on the left that was filtered was dry and very refreshing. The one on the right that looks a little milky was the unfiltered one, and it was a little on the sweet side but also delicious.
The third course was a sushi sampling with three choices. With my little research on the dinner there, I found out that the 7 piece course was also known as the amateur, so I went with the 5 piece option, though there was also a 4 piece option known as the sushi foodie. The sushi also came with your choice of half a california or spicy tuna roll, but we both opted for the spicy tuna.
The fish was as fresh as could be and a really nice assortment as far as sushi options go. From the left, there was tuna, snapper, mackerel, octopus, and raw sweet shrimp. The only one that was new-to-me was the raw shrimp, and it was a little weird to be eating raw shrimp, though I’m sure that was 98.5% mental. When I go out to sushi, I normally order SO MUCH more than what is pictured above, but just having that amount really made me savor every bite. I loved it.
This course came with one final glass of sake, another filtered, dry sake that was perfect with the sushi.
The last course was a very small scoop of ice cream – your choice of mango or green tea. We both got the green tea ice cream – which is hands down my favorite kind of ice cream in the world.
It was about half a scoop, which was the perfect size to end the meal with.
This meal overall was out of this world. I was really impressed with the attentive and friendly service, descriptions given on each item put down before us, and the quality of the food. Our server did not seem at all rushed and made sure to check in on us frequently throughout the meal. I also was happy because I left the restaurant feeling great – like I had a good, solid meal, but not at all overly stuffed like can happen with 3-4 courses. I would hands down recommend Sushi Taro for restaurant week and plan to make a reservation there each time the week comes around!
Do you have restaurant week where you live? What’s your approach – try new-to-you restaurants, fancy places you don’t frequent, or avoid it all together?