Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
Laura Hayes/Thrillist
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1. Sushi Express 1990 K St NW, Washington, 20006

Step into Sushi Express, tucked into a K St office building, and you’re instantly transported to the kind of place where you’d pick up a bento box before boarding a bullet train in Japan. Chef Yoshifumi Yasuoka’s been at this for 30 years, and he’ll remember your order after one visit.

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2. Kintaro 1039 33rd St NW, Washington, 20007

Consider Kintaro you escape from the throngs of tourists that fill Georgetown. Another plus: the prices here are some of the most affordable in town. Cheap eats on this tiny restaurant's simple menu span several tiers of the Japanese food pyramid: sushi, ramen, and donburi. A crowd-pleaser is the Chirashi sushi, a beautifully plated treasure trove of sashimi on a bed of rice, served with a soup and salad.

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3. Sushi Capitol 325 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, 20003 (Capitol Hill)

This tiny D.C. restaurant is serving sushi for purists. Resistant to ingredient-heavy inventive house rolls, or chicken yakatori appetizers, this place is notorious for plating up some remarkably tasty raw seafood, where the chef's minimal (but brilliant) technique is overshadowed only by the exceptional quality of the ingredients themselves. The sleek, waterfront eatery offers a full menu of things like fatty cuts of bluefin belly, or San Diego bay live urchins, and the nigiri-style sushi is largely uncomplicated -- potent fish, brushed with a fine layer of sweet house nikiri sauce. The chef serves tuna and salmon flights, allowing guests a little taste of all the tastiest cuts, and an unrivaled omakase-tasting menu, only available at the bar-- it's just about the closest you can get to a Jiro-like dining experience anywhere for 50$.

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4. Zentan 1155 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

From a Hong Kong-raised Iron Chef-contender who's built his rep on a slew of Toronto fooderies, Zentan's a sleek, slate-tiled, cross-Asian dining hall ornamented with finished black tables and hanging, razor-like pallets of faux-candles.

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5. Daikaya 705 6th St NW, Washington, DC 20001 (Chinatown)

Don’t let the wait for this Chinatown ramen shop deter you: it’s more than worth it for the chewy noodles imported from Japan and the chicken, pork, and beef Chintan stock that’s cooked over 16 hours for extra richness. An unsuspecting standout among the Sapporo-style ramen on offer is the vegan version topped with Brussels sprouts, snow peas, carrots, and braised shiitake mushrooms. As if the ramen didn’t already, Daikaya’s wooden accents, dangling lightbulbs, and blue- and yellow-striped walls will have you feeling warm and cozy.

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6. Kaz Sushi Bistro 1915 I St NW, Washington, DC 20006 (Downtown)

Downtown's Kaz has been slinging sushi rolls to DC's political elites since 1999 -- no surprise, given its walking distance from The White House. Its minimally decorated space is great for dates because most of its tables seat two directly across from one another, making for top-notch one-on-one time. The food ain't bad either (ok, that's a serious understatement): modern takes on Japanese sushi rolls with snapper, yellowtail, and the like are matched with plates of steaming hot steaks and vegetables.

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7. Sushiko 5455 Wisconsin Ave, Chevy Chase, MD 20815 (Chevy Chase)

Sushiko’s been slicing raw fish since the '70s, but that doesn’t mean the restaurant is without new tricks like cherry-wood-smoked Tasmanian ocean trout tartare dotted with goat cheese. And the $90 chef’s tasting menu, served at the sushi bar, alternates between the kitchen and the sushi bar for nine whole courses. The front-and-center seat gives tasters a prime spot to watch chefs envelop tongues of uni with dashi gelée.

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8. Makoto Restaurant 4822 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington, 20007

Makoto is Serious, tranquil, and bossy in the best possible way. Get past the rules designed to make Americans behave better during the meal (silenced cell phones, slippers, business-casual duds) and put your lunch or dinner in the hands of the chef. An omakase (chef’s choice) tasting menu is the only option. The parade of courses will take you through raw things, grilled things, fried things, and beyond. Expect to be told how to eat each bite and take heed.

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9. Izakaya Seki 1117 V St NW, Washington, DC 20009 (U Street)

Izakaya Seki is authentic Japanese grub that goes way beyond sushi and sashimi. In this two story eatery, you can watch the chef prepare dishes like beef tongue with yuzu miso and serve it right to you at the bar or head to the upstairs and sample all of the 25 sakes.

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10. Sushi Taro 1503 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036 (Dupont Circle)

Sushi Taro doles out authentic Japanese and seafood, and during their happy hour, you can get half-price regular sushi and alcohol!

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