It's no secret that DC isn't really a sushi city, especially when compared to the rarefied heights of the Japanese food scene in New York or Los Angeles, where omakase is a household vocabulary word and you have several Japanese restaurants in regular contention for multiple Michelin stars. Unfortunately the most the nation's capital is typically able to offer involves creatively-named rolls drenched in some kind of teriyaki/mayonnaise horror sauce.
As I was becoming increasingly frustrated with one mediocre Japanese restaurant after another, little did I know that chef Minoru Ogawa had quietly opened Sushi Capitol, cozy, narrow restaurant a few blocks from Capitol South Metro station. After a visit two weeks ago for their omakase (chef's choice) selection at the sushi bar, I'm pleased to report that I am reasonably (as in 99.9%) certain that this is the best sushi in the District.
I'm fully aware, of course, of the giant, posh Dupont Circle elephant in the room - Sushi Taro. For what Taro charges, you certainly get the pomp and circumstance of a big, elegantly decorated restaurant, a larger sake selection and "exotic" "wow-factor" type preparations like lobster sashimi and so on. The last time I went, the fish itself was unremarkable and the price tag in the end was equivalent to what I could have spent for a much more satisfying experience next door at Komi.
Sushi Capitol doesn't seem like much from the outside but once you squeeze yourself past fellow diners and get seated at the sushi bar, the attention to detail is there right from the start. For example, here are a few of their appetizers - small portions designed to get your appetite going but huge in flavor.
Your appetizer dishes are cleared by incredibly friendly servers and then - at long last - the first nigiri begin to arrive in front of you, all prepared by the sushi master minutes before they hit your plate (or in my case, are devoured immediately.)
What's great is that because you're sitting so close to other fellow sushi bar diners and because the restaurant groups their omakase seatings, everyone at the bar is getting the same nigiri around the same time you're being served your "course", if you will. This makes for kind of a communal dining experience where you can see (and hear) others enjoying the same pieces of delectable fish as you are.
For the second assortment, what I'd been waiting for finally arrived - the uber fatty o-toro slice of tuna belly. For those who haven't had the joy of tasting this, it literally dissolves in the mouth like butter.
Just as I was wondering whether I was going to get to taste any mackerel (my favorite kind of sashimi, totally underrated) or have more of that ridiculous sea urchin from Maine, this arrived:
Sushi Capitol is clearly my kind of restaurant in that it doesn't even bother serving dessert (it's not available #sorrynotsorry). Rather, the chef rounds off your meal with their version of dessert - chopped toro and scallion, served with sushi rice as a hand roll.
I really can't say enough good things about this place. Maybe it's my sushi-starved brain talking but I absolutely cannot wait to come back for a second round. Perhaps the best thing I can possibly say is that their omakase selection - which includes everything you see above - costs $50 per person, which is a complete steal compared to other places in town, or certainly to similar formats in different cities.
Run, don't walk (but don't tell anyone.)
Food: 4.5/5. The nigiri quality is absolutely fantastic. Would be a full 5 if there was a wider variety of fish and more consistency with the rice but beggars can't be choosers.
Drinks: 3/5. Decent sake and beer selection but you didn't come here for the drinks, did you?
Ambiance: Cozy and unpretentious - easy to walk straight by if you're not paying attention. Reservations recommended, especially if you want to sit at the bar.
Jasmine says: Your hunt for decent, actually discernible sushi is over. Five chomps.
Sushi Capitol is located at:
325 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, Washington, DC 20003
Reservations available via phone.
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.