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Update: Sushi Gakyu will open Tuesday, June 27.
In his thirties, Yoshihisa “Yoshi” Ota accomplished what most sushi chefs only dream of—opening a sushi restaurant in the haute Ginza neighborhood of Tokyo, the type of restaurant where you’ll find stoic sushi chefs cutting the freshest fish with great precision, demonstrating a mastery of craft.
Need we mention the Jiro Dreams of Sushi documentary?
Craftsmanship is exactly what Ota hopes his customers notice when they take a seat in his forthcoming downtown D.C. restaurant Sushi Gakyu (whose name is inspired by his Tokyo restaurant Ginza Gakyu). Through an omakase tasting menu, Ota hopes that, like in Japan, guests will surrender ordering from a menu and leave dinner in his hands.
There’s no fryer or oven to speak of at Sushi Gakyu, so sushi will be the star attraction. Ota hopes to experiment with taking diners back in time to try how sushi was prepared during different eras in Japan. That’s why, in addition to traditional Edomae-style nigiri sushi, there will be oshizushi (pressed sushi that can come in a box) and another throwback style that incorporates fermentation.
The veteran chef is also behind Yuzu Japanese Dining in Bethesda. He says Sushi Gakyu will be a more refined experience for dinner, when the omakase experience will be offered in addition to an a la carte menu. Lunch will be more casual and should draw a business crowd with its 1420 New York Ave. NW address near the White House.
In his more than 30-year career, Ota has amassed some certifications. First, like several other chefs in the city—including Kaz Okochi—he is licensed to handle and serve fugu (blowfish). There are special techniques for ridding the poisonous fish of its toxins before feeding it to thrill-seekers.
Second, Ota passed the requisite exams to become a kikisake–shi—a “master of sake” or sake sommelier. That’s why in addition to leading the kitchen, Ota will curate the sake list. Beer and wine will also be available.
When it opens in about two weeks, Sushi Gakyu will have about 40 dining room seats, 20 bar seats, and patio seating for 10 to 15 more guests. They plan to be open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays. Reservations will be accepted through OpenTable.
Sushi Gakyu, 1420 New York Ave. NW, gakyudc.com