I’m veering off from my Japan trip posts to say a few words about a newish Japanese yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland called Satsuma that some friends and I popped into last night for dinner. This was my second visit to the place, the first time being several weeks ago for lunch.

First off I need clarify something, since I seemed to have confused some members of the party as to whether this was “Japanese” or “Korean” BBQ! I do know that yakiniku was something that was inspired from Korean cuisine. In fact, yakiniku “karubi” (short ribs) is the Japanese pronunciation of the Korean “galbi,” so obviously there’s a direct connection. Admittedly, I’ve never been to a Korean BBQ restaurant before, but from what I’ve seen on food shows, the set-up is pretty similar. Though I imagine that the seasoning would be different, and certainly the side dishes as well.

So back to Satsuma…

You have to remove your shoes to sit at the tables, so it kind of feels like you’re sitting on the floor, tatami-style. Each table comes equipped with a circular smokeless grill in the center with adjustable knobs on the far end.

We got seated and proceeded to order up what seemed like everything on the menu. I think what took the most time was figuring out what kind of cuts of meat to order, and how much of it. The waitress told us a regular sized plate of meat would serve one, but that is so not true! They actually give you quite a bit, and I can say that one regular plate could comfortably feed two people, with appetizers on the side.

premium karubi

In the end, we ordered a plate of “premium” karubi, a regular karubi, and harami (skirt steak), along with a half order of pork. We also got an assortment of veggies to grill: asparagus, zucchini and a fabulous mix of mushrooms that included fresh shitake and eringi.

For appetizers, we ordered some sushi (cucumber roll, salmon avocado roll & tuna avocado roll); age-dashi tofu (deep fried tofu topped with shaved bonito flakes, shredded seaweed, ground ginger, green onion and ground daikon radish); croquette (deep fried breaded mashed potato with beef); ohitashi (boiled spinach marinated in soy sauce and topped with shaved bonito); and salmon onigiri. There was also an order of chicken udon, which was quite delicious. On a side-note here, since it came up during the ordering of the udon: there actually IS such a thing as chilled udon noodle. I’ve rarely seen it on a restaurant menu here, but it’s pretty easy to make at home, and it’s prepared in a similar manner to chilled somen or soba noodles. =)


Everything was really tasty, but the tofu was definitely a standout. It was piping hot and still a little crispy, though it was covered in a dipping sauce already. (Some restaurants give you the sauce on the side). The ohitashi was also surprisingly very good. I’m not usually a big fan of the stuff, but this one had a nice lemony flavor that was refreshing and light.


But the main focus of course, was the grilled meat. The premium karubi
was the most expensive, but I don’t think it was really a favorite. It’s a thicker cut and took longer to cook, and I personally found it tougher to chew on. Whereas the harami – which came marinated – was more thinly sliced and very tender.


The pork was fatty and fabulous! We all agreed it tasted like a very rich slice of bacon, and had so much fat the pieces curled up on the grill, making it difficult to cook! It’s no wonder they only offer it in the half size – it would be too much to handle in big portions.

A very tasty experience was had by all. (I hope! This place was my rec, after all… XD) Apologies for the fuzzy iPhone pics…the lighting was pretty dim in the restaurant.

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