There’s been a lot of chatter about the new ‘izakaya’ Kushi, a Japanese style pub that’s opened up in Mount Vernon Square just this month. Naturally, my foodie friends and I had to take an early peek to check them out. ;D

Though their website is kind of non-existent at the moment (they’re only on Tumblr and Twitter), I was able to find a full menu on Thrillist, which proved to be very helpful. I went through the menu several times, ticking off all the items I wanted to try, well in advance of my 7 o’clock reservation. (By the way, the guy said they only take reservations for parties of 6 or more. I’m not sure if they have hence changed this policy…)

My first impression of the place when I stepped inside was: HUGE! On one end of the restaurant was a sushi bar. The mid section housed a bar, a raw bar, and an open kitchen with a wrap around seating counter so you can watch them grill your food if you wanted. Further on was the dining area, which felt very open and airy, like everywhere else. They had some great music playing, and I have to say the whole atmosphere was very cool and casual. It can get a little loud in there, but I didn’t mind that so much as the exposed pipes in the ceiling, a design feature that I kind of hate.

When we first sat down, it was relatively empty in the dining area. But the place quickly filled up, and the wait staff clearly was not able to keep up with the influx. They were trying very hard, and I do understand that they’d only been open a week and were probably still working out some kinks. I have to be honest, though…service was utter chaos. Certainly at a restaurant of this nature, where their menu consists of smaller items in large variety – they need to be prepared for very long and complicated orders. The waiter kept mixing up our order, sending out things we never requested, or sending out multiple items of the same thing. There were also some items that we’d ordered but never received. Fortunately, they were pretty accommodating about it when we were sorting out the bill at the end.

I was feeling pretty frazzled myself, trying to keep up with all the dishes that kept coming and coming. “What’s that?? Wait!! I need to take a picture of it!!” After this and Ping Pong, I need to take a break from the “lots o’ lil plates” kind of establishments for a while! XD;;

Alright, on with the meal!

Uh, despite the very extensive sake list, no one actually ended up getting any! No one ordered any sushi either, which was a strange oversight. (In retrospect, I should have at least gotten one order, just to test it out).

Pictured above are three different kinds of chicken kushiyaki (grilled skewers): plum sauce & shiso, wasabi, and scallion. Except, we were pretty sure that was asparagus, not scallion! My friend swore up and down that it was definitely asparagus! Strange… Whatever it was, it was mediocre, as was the plum sauce/shiso that I had. I don’t think the wasabi was well received either. I thought mine was really dry and bland. It didn’t bode well that Kushi – specializing in kushiyaki – could not produce an excellent yakitori. But the rest of the meal wasn’t so bad:

Oh, my friend asked for a fork, and they gave her this instead:

How are you supposed to eat with this thing?? XDD

Here’s the complimentary serving of hijiki, which came before the meal. Could’ve used some salt.

Starting with the items from the robata (charcoal) grill…

The asparagus was pretty decent. Nothing particularly amazing, though.

Ooooh…but the eggplant! This was exxxcellent. So fresh and flavorful.

Here is where I complain about dark colored dishes again. They don’t photograph well. And if the food served on it is also dark, they don’t present well in person, either. I thought the eggplant itself was very beautifully presented otherwise. Loved how they kept the shape of the eggplant X)

Maitake. (*___*) It translates to The Dancing Mushroom, and my mom used to say that it’s named thus because it is said that it is so delicious, people start dancing after eating it, lol. I have to say I was wary at first, as I’d had unimpressive maitake before. But this dish made me a believer! It had all the earthy goodness of a truly delicious mushroom…the kind of deep and lovely flavor that always make me marvel at how anyone could loathe mushrooms. (I know several people who do, shockingly enough).

In contrast, I was very much looking forward to the eringi mushroom, but it turned out to be bland and disappointing. (;__;) Generally, I adore this mushroom! Not sure what happened here. Maybe the grill charred out all the flavor?

The salmon was very good! Not too dry, as one might expect from a grill. We actually ended up keeping the extra one that they sent us by mistake.

Chilled octopus with vinegar, cucumber, and seaweed. This is a pretty standard dish that my mom whips up on occasion. Their version was okay. I’m generally not blown away by these kinds of dishes though, since they’re not that unique or difficult to make.

Same deal with the ohitashi (boiled spinach in broth topped with bonito flakes), a staple on the Japanese dinner table. I like this dish a lot. It’s light, healthy, and goes so well with a bowl of rice. ♥

Japanese style potato salad. I can’t really explain what makes it Japanese style, but it’s one of those “I’ll know it when I taste it” things. I’ll have to find a recipe for it. Generally, I find Japanese style to be less heavy, and it’s got thinly sliced cucumbers, which I love.

Omelette with shiso leaf. There’s nothing I love better than a good Japanese roll omelette! I don’t mean the nasty sweet crap they slap on top of omelette sushi, but the real deal. The key is obviously in the egg mixture, which you have to season and thin out with liquid before cooking. I thought this one was pretty good, though I would’ve added a little more hondashi (a dried bonito-based seasoning by Ajinomoto) to the egg. I also prefer my omelette with a generous helping of freshly ground daikon radish! Mmm…. Alas, making this roll omelette is labor intensive, so I don’t attempt making it often, myself.

I almost always order chawanmushi (egg custard) at Japanese restaurants, because it’s something I couldn’t have at home. This one was pretty good, with lots of fun fixings inside. XD (I’ve had some egg custards that had practically nothing inside, which can be pretty disappointing..)

Daikon simmered in dashi, topped with two different kinds of miso paste. I like steamed daikon when it’s piping hot, so I should’ve eaten this the instant it was set down. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to it until much later, but it still tasted good. Texture was nice and soft, as it should be. Some people found the miso sauce to be too sweet, though.

Strangely enough, you have to order your own rice. =/ We opted for the rice balls (onigiri), which did not come with a choice in filling (I guess “daily” means only one kind available per day). We ordered several, and they were all pickled plum. (Not that I minded…that one’s my favorite anyway!) It is true, by the way, that rice balls will always taste better when they are made by someone other than yourself.

Same as the regular onigiri, except one side is grilled to a crisp. ♥

Crispy chicken skin (back) and chicken liver (front). The skin was indeed crispy, and quite delicious. I didn’t like the liver, however. Too dense and salty. I think it’s more an acquired taste. I prefer pate style better. My friend loved it, though – she’s a big fan of chicken liver.

I rarely come across a pork belly I don’t love, and this was no exception. Rich, fatty, decadent. Loved it. My favorite dish of the evening! I think we got both the ‘tare’ and ‘salt’ kinds; both were very good. Came with a little bit of dipping salt.

Sweet onion and duck sausage. I only had a bit of the sausage, but by then, I was too full to really appreciate it.

Baby turnips. Ugh, so nasty! What was up with these? I had one bite and couldn’t even finish one lone turnip. It had a strange flavor to it that I couldn’t quite understand.

They kept sending us plates of these (we got like four!) and no one knew WTF they were, or whether we’d even ordered them in the first place. When they first set it down, they said it was sticky yam. But that couldn’t be right, as it didn’t have any sticky texture to it. In fact, it was downright crispy. Was it potato? Radish?? Whatever it was, it was most definitely raw. Upon some subsequent googling, I think the initial identification was right, and it probably WAS sticky yam. Whatever it was, I didn’t like it.

Sadly, one of the dishes that we ordered but never got was the wagyuu beef.

Let’s end on a good note, shall we? Their dessert selection consisted merely of a few ice creams. But they had this fabulous flavor, which happens to be one of my favorites:

GINGER!!! This was a very good, rich, creamy ice cream, with what tasted like candied ginger pieces. It was a touch sweeter than the Häagen-Dazs version (which is, btw, excellent). It also came with a candied kumquat (I think?), which I was a bit dubious of at first, but ended up liking very much. This was a shock to me, as I have never been a fan of marmalade, which is chock full of candied peels that I often find too bitter.

I think this was definitely a meal full of ups and downs. Most everything seemed underwhelmingly seasoned. On the upside, the ingredients were definitely very fresh. I don’t think it quite lived up to the hype that I was hearing, but I’m hoping that maybe once they settle in, I’ll have a chance to revisit them again. Next time, I’ll try their sushi! =)


Seems that in their opening week they really have a lot to offer!

And reaing the menu I kinda like to order everything, so it was great to see your thorough review!!

Too bad we don’t have this kind of restaurants here. ;____;

Thanks for sharing!

They definitely had a wide selection! It was good we came prepared. ;)

Thanks for you comment~ ♥

My boyfriend and I went to Kushi last night — we were really impressed with the food, but I’m not sure if we’d go back or not. Maybe when they’ve been in business a few months. The service started out all right, but we probably waited over 20 minutes to get the check and a box for our leftovers! We kept flagging down the waiter and he kept saying he’d be right back, but then he’d disappear. We finally caught a busboy (who sounded as if he didn’t speak much English) and got a box… but we were both really annoyed at that point. You’d think they’d want to turn over our table, given how crowded it got late in the evening.

The food, at least, was wonderful… We got some of the specials — whole sea urchin, which was cold and fresh and yummy, and the whole grilled fish. Yum yum! I also adored the sake-poached clams. Between the fish (brondini, I think it was called?) and the clams, I don’t know which would be my favorite! We also got a couple maki rolls, spicy tuna and California roll, which were your standard raw fish rolled up in rice… tasty, yes, but not super-special. And it looks like they changed up the grilled onigiri a bit from when you posted — the ones we ordered were grilled on all sides and filled with salmon (I actually could have done without the salmon, but maybe that’s because I don’t stuff my onigiri with anything when I grill them myself).

We didn’t try dessert because we were ready to pop by then (yeah, we ordered waaaaay too much food). However, I did try one of their unadvertised cocktails — the woman at the bar said they don’t have an actual menu yet, but they’re working on it… Kumquat juice and shochu. It was very light and a bit sweet, without being overpoweringly sweet… and it masked the harshness of the shochu. I’d order that again!

We’ll see how it goes. Food was great, but the service really turned us off. Maybe you and I can hit Kushi in a few months, once they’ve broken themselves in a bit more, and I can report back to Boyfriend Dearest whether they’ve cleaned up their act!

Ack. I guess they still haven’t gotten their act together in the service department. It’s unfortunate that everything else could be fabulous but if the service is frustrating, it colors your whole experience.

I’m glad you enjoyed the sushi though! I’m really regretting now that I didn’t try any. I’d love to go back to try it, though. You know, they have some great happy hour deals, so maybe we can head over after work some day? Perhaps the service is a little more attentive at the sushi bar. =)

Thanks for your very helpful review! The sake poached clams sound particularly delicious. ♥


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