Sushi Taro: Kaiseki Edition

Sushi Set 1

Tasting menus are all over town, whether at supper clubs, pop-ups or even grocery stores (Glen’s Garden Market!) But what about the OG (original gangster) of tasting menus? We’re talking about kaiseki, a multi-course, visually stunning display of the best Japanese cuisine has to offer.

somen noodles

Modern kaiseki, like the kind on offer at Sushi Taro, pulls from many historical and cultural references including imperial court cuisine, meals devoured by samurai warriors, the Japanese tea ceremony and healthy Buddhist temple fare. If you decide to take this adventure in the care of Chef Nobu Yamazaki, you will face a choice of four different kaiseki tasting menus: Traditional, sushi, suppon (soft shell turtle!), or wagyu beef/lobster surf and turf.

Unless you have yen to burn, the traditional or sushi kaiseki courses are your best bets. We couldn’t decide…so instead, we bring you the tale of two kaisekis. Here are their merits:

Sushi Tasting:

Sushi Set 2

+ You’ll get to try types of nigiri you’d never think to order like succulent sweet shrimp, bursting ikura or raw abalone.

+Your nigiri sushi comes with a paintbrush and premium soy sauce so you can embrace your inner artist.

Ichigo Daifuku

+ Your dessert choice includes ichigo daifuku (a fresh strawberry lovingly wrapped in mochi) which is arguably the best dessert on earth (zero hyperbole here).

Kaiseki Tasting:

Hassun

+ You are privy to the “hassun” a hodgepodge of morsels arranged to look like a landscape in miniature.

+ If you’re a big eater and it takes a lot to fill you up, take comfort knowing that the traditional kaiseki has an entrée-sized finale. In this case it was pork belly shabu-shabu. Diners whisk raw slices of thinly sliced meat through a hot pot of delectable spicy soup before drinking the broth at the end.

+ At the end you’re asked to select your final sushi course from the menu. Only the traditional kaiseki menu allows you to choose a roll, like the Best Thing on the Menu: spicy spider roll.

Verdict? Go with a friend and get both – they actually let you do that. If you ask really nicely, they’ll even give you a sharp knife to slice nigiri sushi in half. Just ignore the stares and head shakes from the Japanese embassy officers seated at the adjacent table; they’ve never seen such things.

Click here for more photos from the meal. Learn more about Sushi Taro’s kaiseki options.

Sushi Taro: Spicy Spider

Spicy Spider Roll

One shouldn’t shy away from the delicately crafted, uncharacteristically-fresh-for-DC sushi and sashimi at Sushi Taro, unless it’s for the Best Thing on the Menu (BTM):  the Spicy Spider Roll. Their soft shell crabs are on steroids – fat and moist and screaming straight from the sea. Other local sushi bars disguise previously-frozen, meager crustaceans with lettuce and mayo, but there is no need for such trickery at the Taro. The burst of spice and perfectly-vinegared sushi rice serve as a tasty vehicle for getting the crab to your mouth.

If you have the time and the cash, the kaiseki is also BTM worthy, but not for those on a budget, tricky food preferences or who wish to fit into their skinny jeans the next day.  To survive an evening at Sushi Taro on the cheap(er), go for happy hour at the bar Monday-Friday (5:30-7:00pm) and load on up half price sushi, including the BTM of course.

Spicy Spider not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.