Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Tale of Two Sushis

It has been a while since I have posted on any restaurants in the DC area. A couple recent experiences seem to warrant mention: a good one and a not so good one.

Lately, I've been in sushi mode. But not just boring 'ol California rolls, rather the more exotic rolls, such as tuna tempura roll with spicy sauce or crunchy tuna roll. These types of rolls, while not overly authentic Japanese sushi, are much the rage in many restaurant-cum-sushi bars.

Case in point: Oya Restaurant & Lounge on 9th Street, NW and Maté on K Street at the Georgetown waterfront. Both spots have extensive sushi menus, including sashimi, nigiri, maki, and the more exotic maki as mentioned above.

After Signatures on Pennsylvania Avenue shut its doors, Chef Tu Soe packed up and moved onto Oya, taking with him an innovative array of sushi rolls, including a spicy vege roll with carrot, apple and yellow pepper and the crispy tuna roll with tuna, scallions, cucumber and crispy potato flakes.

One of my favorites is the tuna tempura roll: lightly breaded in tempura batter and flash fried, accompanied by a spicy seven pepper sauce. The hearts of palm roll is equally as good and comes with avocado and a sweet soy sauce. The sushi at Oya is definitely some of the best and most interesting in DC.

I am not alone in this opinion as I hear quite a buzz among other foodies when discussing the subject. In fact, a friend of mine who works for Indebleu seems obsessed with the sushi at Oya. I suppose it doesn't hurt that Oya offers a sushi happy hour Monday through Friday from 5 pm-8 pm in the lounge area. Nothing beats $5 sushi rolls!

My 'not so much' experience took place this evening at Maté in Georgetown. Upon entering the chic space, I asked our server if she had any Maté on the menu. I figured a restaurant with the name Maté would most likely serve the South American specialty. She had no idea that Maté is a drink. I would think that if a restaurant is named after a popular South America tea, then the staff should probably at least know what it is, even if it is not on the menu. In fact, I can't quite figure out why the restaurant is called Maté, other than their paltry selection of South American wines. Sure the menu combines latin flavors with sushi...but Malbec with sushi? Not so much.

I let my initial impressions slide and decided to try some of the exotic maki offerings. The Buenos Aires roll sounded good: jumbo lump crab with torched salmon and tempura crunch with a drizzle of wasabi mayo. The crab was not jumbo lump and seemed as if it had seen better days. Yes, it is Sunday, but....

The sweet & spicy roll sounded interesting as well--spicy tuna with sweet plantains. I was not really digging the sweet banana flavors along with the spicy tuna. Same for the tamalito roll: yellowtail with jalapeño, avocado, plantains & corn masa wrapped in a daikon radish skin. This roll wouldn't be bad if the corn masa were removed. I guess I just can't get into the latin flavors fused with sushi.

To Maté's credit, the volcano roll was quite good: shrimp tempura topped with a seared spicy crab salad.

Oya Retaurant & Lounge
777 9th Street, NW

3101 K Street, NW


rgb said...

I was somewhat underwhelmed by Oya's sushi (their cocktails and the rest of their menu are amazing, though). I went to a sushi happy hour there with high expectations and tried an array of dishes, most of which were ok but not great. I'm a regular at Sushi Taro (17th and P) and must say it's my favorite Sushi place in town.

Andrew said...

I think that the sushi and Oya and that from Sushi Taro are very different. The Sushi Taro experience borders more on the traditional view of sushi where as that at Oya is more creative...nouveau shall we say? Sorry to hear your experience was lackluster. Did you try the Tuna Tempura Roll or the Spicy Crunchy Shrimp? 2 of my favorites...and you cant beat the $5 Happy Hour prices!