Having gone to Kaz Sushi Bistro countless times over the years, I was interested in seeing what Sushi Chef Jay Yu, who spend 13 years working alongside Kaz at the sushi bar, would be up to in his brand new restaurant in Falls Church, which opened just last Thursday, Dec 10th. It’s located right in-between Smashburger and the under-appreciated Meat in a Box.
An important note to diners: Takumi will not have a beer and wine license “for about a month,” so do not go there expecting to have a Sapporo with your sushi just yet. Another thing: they are currently using a temporary menu which they stress will be changing in about a week. “It’s full of typos, and it’s embarrassing,” a server told me. So please keep those two things in mind if you go anytime soon.
I took a seat at the sushi bar Tuesday evening, and ended up feeling like I was at a Kaz Sushi Bistro family reunion: My server works at Kaz, the girl who told me about the menu worked for Kaz, Chef Yu worked next to Kaz (on the diner’s right), and – this is possibly the most important thing I’m going to tell you – the Kitchen Chef at Takumi was the *other* sushi chef who worked next to Kaz on the diner’s left (I’ve never known his name, but he’s an older gentleman called Taka-san – he has chosen to switch over to being a full-time kitchen chef due to the rigors of endless standing). I was told that for now, Kaz is sending out one different employee a day to help them get started, and Kaz himself stopped in to wish them well on opening day. Isn’t it heartwarming to see such a display of generosity and gratitude?
And for those worried about the future of Kaz Sushi Bistro, have no fear: he will soon be signing another long-term lease, and is training some younger sushi chefs, as well as working on bringing over some people from Japan – although we’ve only written each other, I could “feel” an obvious energy and enthusiasm in his notes to me that I haven’t felt from him in quite awhile. His biggest concern seems to be the impending arrival of Nobu, which will be located somewhere around 25th and M in quite a large space. Have no worries, Kaz-san – you’re a DC institution.
I started my meal with a pot of Caffeine-Free, Yellow and Blue, Herbal Tea ($4.50), a chamomile and lavender tisane by Harney and Sons, a very reputable producer of upscale teas, and this carried me through the meal. Browsing through the menu, I noticed some definitely influences and a few very similar dishes than what I’ve seen at Kaz Sushi Bistro in the past – I was determined to try some of these to compare them, and to see what Chef Yu could do untethered from the mother ship.
Sitting next to a woman I correctly guessed was a Yelper, she had ordered the Flounder Carpaccio with Wakame and Yuzu Sauce ($12), and when asked how she felt about it, she came right out and said it wasn’t to her liking. This was one of the things I was thinking of ordering, so I told them (nobody else was within earshot) that I’d be glad to take it, and for them to just put it on my bill. This was five fairly thin slices of flounder sashimi, topped with a thick, almost nutty, paste of wakame and yuzu. I thought there were a couple things about this dish that could have been improved upon, and when Chef Yu asked me, I answered him politely, but candidly – this was probably the one dish I had that needs a mild tweaking, but it doesn’t need much: The issues I pointed out could be fixed in five minutes.
My first dish was a Consommé of Asari ($6), asari being baby clam, sitting on the bottom of the bowl of clear broth, in-shell. This was a delicious consommé, and one that I would happily get again. It was just the right thing to start off a meal with.
In something of a contrast to the consommé, I also ordered the Agedashi Tofu with Mushroom ($5), the definition of comfort food: soft, silky cubes of tofu, barely dusted, and wok-fried with plenty of enoki-like mushrooms, and a hot, thickened brown sauce on top. I loved this dish, and highly recommend it to anyone trying Takumi – the only thing I can think of that might improve the dish is if the amount of sauce was dialed down just ten percent; other than that, it was a gift at five dollars. This is one dish that I would strongly urge people to order.
Having had the bird’s nest at Kaz several times, I had to get the Bird’s Nest ($14) here, and it did not disappoint while at the same time being noticeably different than the one at Kaz. Made with sea urchin, calamari, a very light application of truffle soy sauce, and topped with a quail egg, this dish is made to be mixed together before attacking it, and no soy sauce is needed, although this particular rendition was intentionally light on the soy, so I can easily see diners sneaking a few additional drops into the mix. Although there was nothing fattening in here, it came across as almost decadently rich, and despite its moderate size, was quite filling – sea urchin and egg yolk as thickeners in sauces have a tendency to do that.
I was pretty full at this point, but I hadn’t had a bite of sushi rice, and wanted to end my meal with a maki, so I ordered the Negitoro Roll ($8), made with fatty tuna and scallion, and I’m delighted to report that the sushi rice here is outstanding. I’ve always thought that Kaz consistently had the best sushi rice in the city, and this rice is a worth contender. Sushi rice is such an important component of great sushi, yet it often goes unnoticed or unappreciated; not with me – this was first-rate sushi rice, and those many, many years of experience certainly showed up here. Highly recommended.
Stuffed, I asked for the check, but Chef Yu offered me a dessert (I think he was pleased that I didn’t waste the carpaccio, and that I seemed to have some degree of appreciation for what he has done). I had mentioned before that I liked yuzu, so he sent out a tulip glass of Yuzu Sorbet ($4) which I didn’t think I wanted, but right after the first bite of that ice-cold, citrus-flavored sorbet, I knew it was the perfect digestif for this ample-but-healthy meal. When the check arrived, neither the sorbet nor the carpaccio were on it – I protested, saying I wanted to pay for the carpaccio, but they insisted that it was on the house, so I tried to make up for it with a generous tip.
Although you can tell that this is a brand-new restaurant, only a few days old, Takumi also shows great promise, and is already one of the best sushi houses in Virginia (if not the best). It will improve a lot as the next few weeks pass, but I also fear that in the long run, Chef Yu may grow frustrated at serving nothing but California Rolls (I mentioned this to him, and he just laughed it off). Takumi is absolutely influenced by Kaz Sushi Bistro, and I believe that, with time, this restaurant will make the master proud.