PHOTO: Place setting at Sushi Nakazawa's Sushi Counter (c) Sery Kim
Very rarely do I dine at a restaurant and leave deeply impressed. As spoiled as this sounds, I have gotten to eat at some of the world's best restaurants during my five-plus years of traveling around the world. From three-Michelin restaurants in Europe to the luxury cruise ship Seabourn in Antarctica, from Bora Bora to African safaris to the coldest heights of Sheldon Chaletin Denali National Park, Alaska, I can't be impressed (literally) because I have seen and eaten it all. So, when I say, I am impressed by a restaurant in Washington, D.C. I am saying this under the auspicious of all these other experiences combined.
And Sushi Nakazawa is the best food I've eaten in Washington, D.C.
PHOTO: Making sushi at Sushi Nakazawa (c) Sery Kim
As many who have followed the drama around the opening of Trump International Hotel, for a period of time many diners refused to even step inside Sushi Nakazawa because it was anchored to the main hotel -- you don't actually have to step inside the hotel as the entrance is below street-level on 12th Street, across from the Federal Triangle Metro Stop. The restaurant, for months, remained fairly empty and the drama around the hotel wasn't helped by comments made by one of the restaurants owners regarding the dining tastes of residents of D.C.
But even as this swirl of complicated publicity thrust itself upon Sushi Nakazawa, once a diner decided to ignore it and step inside the restaurant itself, diners were transported to a different place and time than modern-day Washington, D.C.
PHOTO: Heavenly Heavensake (c) Sery Kim
The decor of the restaurant itself is clean and pure, setting itself as a backdrop to the actual food itself. Diners can chose to sit at the Sushi Counter or the seated dining space. For those who feel the need to sit at a table, they are missing out on the most authentic sushi experience. I don't care how many you have in your party, you must sit at the counter and watch the actual preparation.
Start the evening with some delightful sake. Separated into multiple categories of taste, I chose from the Fruity section and my Heavensake was exceptional, so good in fact I ordered two glasses quickly. Heavensake wasn't like a Reisling, aka sweet, or even a Chardonnay. It tasted very light with a slight sweet twist. I really enjoyed it. My boyfriend ordered from the Dry section and his sake came cloudy, which surprised me, but it was also amazing in its taste.
Now I know not everyone likes sake so they want to go for some other liquor, aka I am talking to you wine and champagne people. Personally, I think ordering wine or champagne at Sushi Nakazawa is a mistake. It fills your mouth with flavors which infringe upon the pureness of the sushi itself. This is also why I do not think diners should eat much food during the day because, again, the preservatives in the food will color and affect the tastebuds. So arrive hungry. Drink light. And enjoy!
PHOTO: Sake menu at Sushi Nakazawa (c) Sery Kim
Once the food starts to arrive, there are 20 different pieces of fish, all different cuts. If you have never eaten sushi in the non-Whole Foods manner, watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi so you can get an idea of what is about to occur. Sushi does not arrive rolled in seaweed, garnished with a random assortment of vegetables. Sushi arrives with an elegant cut of fish on top of, hopefully, equally beautiful white rice. The fish has been marinated or seared or flavored in a very natural way. No soy sauce. No wasabi. And, even depending on the kind of fish, no ginger either.
Sushi is about purity, about letting the fish itself shine.
PHOTO: Sushi Nakazawa's sushi (c) Sery Kim
For those of you who get full quickly, you can order half-portions of rice (which I did) because each cut of fish does come on rice and rice can be quite filling. You can also order additional extra sushi pieces such as Caviar (yes, you should order it), Truffle (not for us) and Wagyu (absolutely! do it!), but $150 for 20 pieces of fish is more than enough.
PHOTO: The rice underneath the sushi (c) Sery Kim
Pictures will convey more than my actual descriptions so below you will find every piece of sushi I ate. I lingered and chewed through each piece at least 8-10 times because I the fish transformed itself with my saliva, but I hope you will book an experience of yourself so you can experience the sensation I mean when I say "words don't do Sushi Nakazawa justice." In fact, we loved our first time so much, as we finished the 16th or 17th piece, we went ahead and booked a return trip.
Also, this is kinda odd to say, but I really enjoyed dessert! It comes included in the meal itself. The egg is the most famous finishing dessert but the tofu pudding was my favorite.
PHOTO: Dessert at Sushi Nakazawa (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: Tofu Pudding at Sushi Nakazawa (c) Sery Kim
Thank you again Sushi Nakazawa for an incredible meal. We are so in love with it!