In two words: absolutely amazing.
I went with friends for my birthday in July and the food, service, and atmosphere were all fantastic. Best birthday dinner yet.
Omakase in Japanese means “I’ll leave it to you,” so the selection of food is completely left up to the chef. The omakase counter is an interactive experience – the Chef talks about the different types of dishes being prepared as he is preparing them, and you can ask questions and learn about new styles. If you decide to do the omakase counter, definitely go with an open and curious mind – it is adventurous and you’ll be tasting food you may never have tasted before.
Per Sushi Taro’s website, usually you need to book the omakase counter at least one month in advance. The counter only sits six people, so it is not for big parties. The counter is closed Sunday and Monday. However, we were able to book the counter only a week before my birthday, because summers are slower than the rest of the year.
The private omakase counter is curtained off from the rest of the restaurant. The Chef of the counter is Chef Nobu Yamazaki, also the owner of Sushi Taro. Rare items and rare details make this experience very unique in the heart of DC.
The first course Chef Yamazaki prepared for us was a tofu dish that apparently takes at least an hour to prepare each day according to the chef. It was topped with California sea urchin as well as freshly made wasabi and pickled soybeans. The texture resembled a gelatin-like substance.
The second dish was tuna spine jelly with salted tuna and seaweed salt. It was really innovative and resourceful, using a piece of a tuna that people generally don’t use as a base for the jelly. The balance of salinity from the jelly was just right.
The next dish was Hamo eel with shaved yuzu in a plum sauce. The eel was served in a large block of ice. Then came a dish of gooseneck barnacles from Spain.
Our next dish was a large platter of snow crab, corn crab cake, bamboo wrapped cured baby snapper, Japanese cucumber with freshwater eel, and a small conch. The corn crab cake was very creative. The Chef had placed a circle of crab meat inside a ring of corn so that it looked like the end of a corn on the cob, except you could eat the entire thing.
Up next was the sashimi course. The Chef took out six boxes of various fish selections, letting us choose so he could prepare the sashimi for us. The Chef also pointed out some of his favorites or some seasonal favorites. Some of my favorites were wild snapper, butterfish, fatty tuna, and salmon. I loved the richness of the fatty tuna. So tender.
After the sashimi course came freshwater trout with housemade soba noodles, then Ayu fish tempura and squid ink tempura soft shell crab with green tea sea salt.
Our next dish was this unbelievable seared Waygu beef stuffed with sea urchin and topped with shaved truffles. The truffle shavings were enormous in size.
Finally, the last course was the sushi course. Once again, the Chef took out the display boxes of fish selections and asked us what we wanted, and he prepared it right in front of us.
Afterwards, we decided to get individual desserts. I got anmitsu (green tea ice cream with mochi, red bean paste, jelly cubes). The chef placed a birthday candle on top of the green tea ice cream and sang happy birthday to me. He and the other Sushi Taro kitchen staff also presented me with a handmade signed birthday card.
All in all, this meal was one of my favorite and most memorable in DC. The service provided by Chef Nobu Yamazaki was incredible. He is a mastermind of creativity and has astounding knife and searing skills. He is also very knowledgeable and the service he provided to his patrons is 5-stars. It is a little pricey (we all paid a little more than $180 including tip), but well worth the price. You get amazing detailed and innovative dishes, impeccable presentation, and quality and personal attention and service. Sushi Taro is still my favorite place in the DC metropolitan area to get sushi and the omakase counter experience has made it even more vastly superior to other sushi restaurants in the area.
If you want to take an innovative culinary journey through Japan while never leaving DC, then I highly recommend trying Sushi Taro’s omakase counter.