Tachibana, McLean, VA

My young dining companion and I wanted sushi the other night, so we stopped into Tachibana – a restaurant that I often use for carryout lunch, but rarely for dine-in dinner.

We walked into a packed restaurant, and who spots us but R J Cooper. He waved us over to his table, where he had just sat down for dinner with his mom. Within a few minutes, small plates and hot sake began arriving. During the meal, R J entranced Matt with tales of his upcoming Rogue 24. His mom is a wonderful, charming lady, and one must wonder how such a lovely human being could have spawned something such as R J Cooper.

Ordering a la carte sushi at Tachibana is a fool’s game – it’s absurdly expensive (nigiri is often $6, $8, sometimes $10 for two pieces), and it’s only of good (not great) quality. For that type of money? I demand excellence.

So your best bet is to get an assortment if indeed sushi is your path of choice here (Tachibana has a huge menu, with a full array of Japanese dishes you won’t see at many other restaurants in the area).

There are three levels of sushi sets offered: regular, special, and delux[e]. Matt ordered a Regular ($27, 14 pieces) with tuna roll (6 pieces), tuna, flounder, white tuna, mackerel, octopus, salmon, squid and shrimp. For variety, I went with the Special ($31, 11 pieces) with tuna, white tuna, flounder, yellowtail, eel, salmon roe, shrimp, flying fish roe, clam, smoked salmon, and salmon.

I wish I had a whole lot to say, but I really don’t. The sushi rice was above average in quality, and the fish was about the same. Nothing stood out as extraordinary until the bill arrived which, with tax and tip, was almost $200 for the four of us. While that doesn’t sound like that much, we really didn’t have all that much to eat.

Generously, I picked up the tab to R J’s protestations. “No, no, I insist,” I said. “You can just take care of us at Rogue 24.”

I might be generous, but I’m not stupid. 😉

About a week later, I hit up Tachibana on a Saturday afternoon at 2 PM for my usual carryout Sashimi Lunch Special ($15), and it was packed, with a line of people out the door (really?)

This is an order I’ve placed many times over the years, and it has crept up in price, but only by a little bit. The default soup is miso, but you can also request osuimono (not advised, as it’s quite bland). The special comes with a container of white rice which I heretically advise dumping into the container of miso soup. It may not be traditional, but when you’re eating by yourself, who cares – the rice swells with the broth and makes the soup much more ample and interesting.

I’ve always thought this special represented fair value – it comes with thick-cut sashimi, and is a pretty hefty portion. On this day (and this day was typical), there were four big pieces of salmon, five big pieces of tuna, five small pieces of flounder, five medium pieces of seared bonito (always a highlight), and a little cucumber bowl stuffed with various chunks of fish. If you break it down, it works out to about 70 cents a piece, not taking into account the soup. It’s pretty decent sashimi and it’s worth getting if you don’t mind dropping fifteen dollars for lunch.

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