Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sushi Capitol

Keith almost convinced me not to even write about this place for fear it will get more popular.  But one of my vows is to share my experiences at all restaurants - great, good, bad, and terrible.  Without further ado, I present to you Sushi Capitol - a relatively new sushi restaurant, located right in the heart of Capitol Hill on Pennsylvania Ave. The chef, Minoru Ogawa, is a trained sushi specialist and takes great pride in his work and passion. Serving perhaps the freshest sushi in DC for incredibly modest prices, this Japanese family-owned hidden gem will quickly be my go-to spot.  Closest Metro is Capitol South.

January 2014: We went on a cold and rainy Friday evening.  We arrived just before 6pm and the restaurant, though cramped, was nearly empty so we had our choice of seats.  I thought the weather might keep other customers away, but no - all the table tops and most of the seats at the sushi bar filled up by the time we left.  Another clue that this restaurant must be doing something right.  Service is professional, polite, and very efficient.  I never felt neglected and that is a rare quality to see, especially during peak busy times.

I enjoyed the complimentary hot green tea while we perused the menu.  A few classic Japanese items are available besides sushi, such as tempura and udon noodles.  For those more adventurous, an omakase offering is available for $50 per person.  Reservations are required and you must sit at the bar to enjoy that unique experience - Keith and I definitely want to return for that soon.

But back to our recap of this visit... Keith started with Miso Soup.  A traditional presentation and warming for only $2.  As an appetizer we shared the Chicken Karaage - boneless fried chicken pieces.  The seasoning was a bit more bland than we are used too, but I appreciated the simple addition of a squirt of lemon juice.  We also shared the Mixed Tempura with shrimp and vegetables.  Both dishes were lightly battered and fried, and a great way to start off the meal.

Left to Right: flounder, spicy tuna roll, toro, mackerel, salmon, yellowtail
Next, we chose several nigiri pieces and one spicy tuna roll.  The fish was of super high quality and served with fresh, grated wasabi.  We were told the chef already seasoned a few of the pieces and were not to be drowned in soy sauce.  Having experienced this similar tutelage in Japan, we complied without second thought.  Those pieces included the flounder, which was seasoned with loads of lime juice and salt; the mackerel that was lightly grilled and peppered; and the yellowtail, which was topped with lemon juice and jalapeno.  Of these nigiri, the flounder and mackerel were my most favorite.  The other nigiri we enjoyed were toro (fatty tuna) and salmon.  Both of these were incredibly fresh, buttery, and melted in my mouth.  We enjoyed the fish so much that we ordered a second round of just the pure fish in sashimi form.  We chose more toro and flounder, however, I found the cut of these pieces to be less appealing and a bit more dried out.  I preferred the nigiri far more than the sashimi presentations.  We also ordered tamago - Keith's favorite sweet egg custard.  I don't usually care for tamago, as it can be too omelettey for me, but this preparation was dense and made for a nice dessert.

Not only is the food exceptional, but the service and price are also top notch.  A few points were lost due to the cramped space and plain decor, but that will not deter my return to Sushi Capitol anytime soon.

Fresh ground wasabi on a shark skin board.
April 2014:  Finally, we returned to Sushi Capitol for the omakase experience.  We made reservations for 6:30pm to sit at the bar, but the restaurant was very busy when we arrived and we had to wait a few minutes for them to clean up two spots.  We were quickly introduced to Chef Ogawa who would be serving us, yet he was preoccupied with plating other diner's orders.  I was worried if our omakase experience would be less attentive, since Sushi Capitol is much more laid back.  We have had omakase before in Japan, and the service was so exclusive and top notch, that the bar was set high.  But we remained patient, eager for what was to come.

omakase - first course
Soon enough our first course arrived.  It was a hot course of three items: a baby squid (ika) on top of monkfish liver mousse and ponzu sauce; a tempura'd shrimp head; and a 3-year old oyster with ponzu soy sauce.  The bite of squid and monkfish was luxurious and my favorite.  The shrimp heads are meant to be eaten whole, but they are so awkward and bit too hard for me to enjoy.  I normally do not like raw oysters.  And this oyster was large, cut into three pieces, and looked very intimidating.  However, chanting 'omakase' in my head, I knew I must trust the chef and thus, ate each piece one by one.  Surprisingly, they were not as slimy as other oysters.  These were much more meaty and substantial and had a light briny after taste.  We were very happy with our first course.

omakase - second course
Second, we received our first plate of nigiri from Chef Ogawa.  He explained each piece: roasted octopus (tako) with teriyaki glaze; escolar with jalapeno; yellowtail (hamachi); and a fourth piece that I immediately popped in my mouth with excitement before taking the picture. (woops!)  All pieces were incredibly fresh.  I thought the tako had a nice texture and Keith adored the white fish with jalapeno - simple and delicious.

omakase - third course
A smiling Chef Ogawa presented us our third course, that I deemed a Trio of Toro.  High quality pieces of fatty blue fin tuna in the various grades with a dash of soy sauce and wasabi on top: toro (the leanest), chu-toro (medium), and o-toro (the fattiest).  Keith gave me a side eye full of glee before we took our first bite.  O.M.G.  Each piece was insanely fresh, buttery, melted in my mouth, and overall amazing.  Our favorite was the chu-toro.

omakase - fourth course
Fourth, we were presented with another lovely plate of decadent sushi.  We started with the fresh shrimp (ebi) topped with shiitake mushroom, then jumped to the roll stuffed with fresh lobster meat and topped with a raw quail egg.  Again, I would not normally eat raw egg, but chanting 'omakase', I shoved the whole thing in my mouth.  Chef Ogawa saw me, and I must have had an odd expression on my face, because he asked how I liked it.  I found it very creamy, but not as sweet as I expected the lobster to be.  Next, I recognized the mackerel - one of my faves - with simple salt, lime, and scallion on top.  We saved the rich sea urchin (uni) for last.  It was still alive (we saw him pull it straight from the shell), and the bite was an explosion of sweet, fresh sea in my mouth.  Phenomenal.

omakase - fifth course
Next, we had a hand roll of Japanese sardines and scallions.  Again, very fresh and slightly more fishy than the other fish, yet very tasty.  The salt was welcomed on my palate.

omakase - sixth course
Nearing the end of our omakase, Chef Ogawa presented our final sushi pieces.  BBQ Eel, pickled radish and shiso leaf rolls, and a piece of tamago.  This ending was very traditional and similar to the ending we had during our omakase dinner in Japan.

omakase - seventh course
Thinking we were finished, we were surprised by an actual dessert of tempura'd vanilla ice cream drizzled with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. This dessert was a little "Americanized" and though unnecessary, we happily finished our plates.

Overall, we had a top-notch, authentic omakase experience in DC for a fraction of the cost that one would pay at other high-end Japanese restaurants in the U.S. or Japan.  Chef Ogawa professionally balanced his attention to us with plating orders for the main dining room.  I highly recommend the omakase at Sushi Capitol - you will get your money's worth and leave with happy bellies.

Total Rating: 4.6
Food: 5, Price: 4.5, Service: 4, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 5
What Micky Eats...

What I ate:
Chicken Karaage

Mixed Tempura
shrimp and vegetables

Nigiri & Spicy Tuna Roll
flounder, toro, mackerel, salmon, yellowtail

toro, flounder, tamago

Sushi Capitol on Urbanspoon

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