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Quest for toro

BW | May 10, 2003 03:59 AM

Two recent sushi experiences:

On a Saturday night at Aoi Sushi, 1100 New York Ave. NW, I was surprised at how empty the place was. And I mean empty -- I arrived at 9:30 or so and there were never more than two parties seated, including me. This does not bode well, especially considering the recent positive review by Sietsema. I found the atmosphere wanting, though maybe the lack of fellow diners contributed to that feeling.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, by one special. For $25 or so they offered a toro platter that included fatty tuna, fatty salmon, fatty yellowtail and tuna rolls. Brilliant idea, OK execution. It wasn't close to the quality of tuna or salmon toro I had acquired a taste for at Spices in Cleveland Park.

(Spices isn't even exclusively Japanese or a sushi bar, I know, but I've tried the sushi places that more knowledgeable people prefer and I've found their sushi inferior.)

A week or so later on a weekday around lunch time, I tried Katsu or Ivy or whatever they're calling Makoto's upstairs carryout sushi operation these days. The toro there was at least equal to the best I've had. Butter from the sea, I called it when I first tried it at Spices, and at Katsu/Ivy it's as buttery as can be. And I've heard the prices used to be better, but the prices are pretty darn good.

I wasn't happy about the sushi chef's shooing-away gesture when I deigned to look at my order a fraction of a second before it was finished, but that -- along with a bad parking situation -- was the odd discordant note.

Oh, and the eel, while fine, was probably my least-favorite eel of all the sushi places I've been to. That's pretty much the one thing (maybe because it's cooked) that even the shopping-mall places can get right. But all is forgiven, Ivy/Katsu, if there's more toro where that came from.

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