I like schmancy, but sometimes I miss the little local sushi places I went to back in Japan in the late 90s. The best were the neighborhood joints that were all dark, scratched wood; where any and everyone would stop by after work, pull up a blocky chair for a cold beer and sushi or chicken on a stick. Construction guys in their pantaloons, covered in dust and grime, would sit next to office workers with loosened Takashimaya ties, and drink until their faces were a nice shade of crimson. People were chatty and friendly (sometimes a little too- I will never forget being urged to try horse meat), it was all about the unwinding.
In my experience, most places in the DMV still treat sushi like it’s fashion rather than food: Anyone walking into Current in Dupont with bedhead probably paid $70 to Andre Chreky for the privilege and if not, good luck getting your waiter’s attention. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying pjs should be the new LBD, just that spending 30 minutes on my hair and wearing (knockoff) Manolos does not make food taste better- and sometimes it’s nice to go out to eat even if you’re not feeling like a fashion plate.
Yosaku Sushi on Wisconsin Ave is my new favorite local. Not only is it relaxed and friendly, but cheap- which is great because the idea of paying $12 for a cucumber roll makes me roll (hah.) my big round eyes.
Yosaku has a big red awning that’s hard to miss and a patio that’s nice for people watching. One of the selling points for me was that I decided to go on the spur of the moment, and the wait staff didn’t bat an eye at my tshirt and tennies- there was a kid there in NBA gear and tats, older folks in “resort wear”, some college kids in early 20’s chic (popped collars and sundresses), as well as a nicely dressed family with younger children. I didn’t feel judged for my attire, which was kind of nice, because I just wanted some dinner.
Being budget-minded I jumped right on the sushi happy hour deal which runs from 5:00pm to 7:30pm. Most of their nigiri gets marked down to $1/piece- including toro (fatty tuna)- and pricier selections are halved. The 6-piece rolls are marked down to $3 and up, Japanese bottled brews go for $3.75, and desserts like mochi ice cream for around the same. There are also specials on noodle dishes and rice bowls. The fish is cut a little thinner than I like, but there’s no plastic-y/ammonia taste like I’ve experienced at other places I won’t mention, and the master-san’s use of ginger on some pieces and wasabi in others keeps things fresh. They don’t dye their ginger a violent pink, by the way.
The black-clad staff is welcoming and efficient, the decor is relatively plain (white walls with a red stripe, a few screens and a picture or two), but the atmosphere is relaxed and convivial in a way you don’t usually see at sushi places in the DMV. Judging from the number and variety of folks streaming in and out on foot on any given weeknight, the lack of kimonos, gigantic paper lanterns, and koi ponds hasn’t kept this place from becoming a local favorite.
Maybe I’ll put on a sundress go back for their katsudon or tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet over rice), but if I end up in skinny jeans and a tank top and never get past the sushi menu that’s just fine. Nothing better on a summer evening than sitting out on the front patio, sipping a cold bottle of Kirin lager, scarfing down some really good sushi- and the best part is not feeling like a (fashion) victim when you get the bill.
Yosaku Sushi is redline accessible (Tenleytown) as is its sister restaurant, Tono Sushi in Woodley Park.
4712 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20016