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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thing 80: Kotobuki

"Two thumbs up," says the Boyfriend. And he usually doesn't even like raw fish, so this is saying something. (I may have to rename this blog "Expanding Boyfriend's Horizons"!)

Last night, we met another couple for sushi. They seem to be our sushi friends -- they're the same ones we ate at Taro with. This time, I was hot to try Kotobuki, in the Palisades, which I had heard from DC Sarah was an excellently cheap place to gorge on raw fish and vinegared rice. And when DC Sarah speaks, she being equally enamored with all things delicious as I am, I listen.

The meal was indeed wonderful and surprisingly inexpensive. I spared our sushi friends the embarrassment that always seems to come from me taking pictures of my meals, so I don't have any photos to back this up with, but believe me when I say that we had two gorgeous plates of colorful nigiri and maki rolls arrive at our table, expertly crafted and begging to be gobbled up. The scallop was my favorite, so soft and rich on the tongue it was like eating through butter. I also really enjoyed the mackerel, a naturally oily fish, briny and fatty and pure white with a thin stripe of silver skin. The Boyfriend, who tried eel for the very first time ("Expanding Boyfriend's Horizons!") really enjoyed it, and I will agree that it was sweet and fatty and, according to our sushi friends, "damn near perfect." I was also surprised to find that I really liked the California roll -- normally such a redundant and boring roll, this one had a fresh and mellow flavor, and was given a boost with a little caviar.

Our sushi friends went a bit more daring than we did and ordered the salmon roe, the fried sweetened tofu and a rainbow roll, among other things. The rainbow roll was a fat, multicolored work of sushi art, with three different colors of fish roe -- red, dark red and orange -- contrasting beautifully with the creamy green and yellow of the avocado.

For dessert, we ordered those Japanese ice creams that are encased in bean paste, which are much more delicious than that sounds. I had tried some before, and I really like the sweet ice cream encased in the chewy membrane of bean paste, so I ordered two of them in green tea flavor. They were so popular, we ordered two more mango ones. A delicious and light way to end a wonderful meal.

Kotobuki is inexpensive. I hesitate to say cheap, because generally cheap is not an adjective I want associated with my sushi, but you can really go to town here and not break the bank. Nigiri is a dollar a piece for the most part, and rolls are in the $3 neighborhood. The Boyfriend and I ate a lot of sushi, miso soups, ice cream and I had a small sake, and it came out to a little over $20 a head. And we did not leave hungry.

The restaurant itself is small, just a small room with a sushi counter and a handful of tables on the second floor above the Makoto restaurant. They do not take reservations, and people arrive early and line up going down the staircase to wait for their table. It's a lively little restaurant, noisy and brightly lit and full of neighborhood people.

Full of neighborhood people for a reason. For you see, Kotobuki's biggest drawback is that it's darn hard to get to. The Palisades are nowhere near a metro, and while in theory the D6 bus should deposit you in front of the restaurant, I did not see a westbound D6 at all while I waited in the mild drizzle on Q Street. And, ahem, the D2 bus does not go downMacArthur Boulevard, which I learned the hard way. I ended up having to take a cab from God knows where I was in Georgetown. So the moral of the story is, you may need a car, or bring a date who has a car, if inexpensive quality sushi is what you seek.

All in all a really wonderful evening, with no small amounts of sushi and the kind of laughter that makes your abs sore in the morning. In the imaginary sushi playoffs in my head, Kotobuki ranks just above Taro, but not quite at the Kaz level. It is definitely a contender in the elite eight, if not the final four.