Sushi Keiko, formerly Sushi-Ko, is Washington D.C.’s oldest sushi restaurant located in the heart of Glover Park just north of Georgetown. They first opened their doors in the 1970s. Manager, David Zhang, previously ran Sushi-Ko until it closed briefly only to reopen on June 18, 2014.
At the bar I was first served hot Gekkeikan sake in a traditional ceramic flask known as ‘tokkuri’ along with a small ceramic cup known as ‘choko.’ The quaint restaurant began to slowly fill up with people off from work and fulfilling their sushi craving. David said how much he loves seeing his regulars and knowing his customers by name.
Innovative and traditional Japanese dishes can be found in their menu. My adventurous palate never steers me wrong, nor did it when I started with the salmon ceviche. I watched Chef Wei Zhang expertly slice the sashimi-style salmon then drizzle a Japanese citrus sauce over the salmon. He finished the dish with a few caviar eggs, thinly sliced red onion and a microgreen sprig. I loved the different textures and the way the subtle sweetness of the sauce played with the saltiness of the caviar.
The next dish was from their kitchen and showcased their culinary diversity.
The soft-shell crab tempura was lightly battered and incredibly tender inside. I relished each bite as I dipped it in the chili ponzu sauce. I was most impressed with the shell since I found the texture better and easier to chew than if it was steamed. This was the best way I have had soft-shell crab prepared. A seasonal dish that only lasts from the second week of April through the first week of October.
Chef Zhang next prepared a plate with an array of nigiri and David suggested pairing the dish with a glass of cold sake called Haiushika. The lineup began with fatty tuna, flounder with plum sauce, zuke, sea urchin, and shrimp.
The third called ‘zuke’ is a traditional Japanese method that dates back to before refrigerators were invented. Sushi chefs would immerse the raw fish in soy sauce for a few hours and by doing so the sodium prevented the sushi from spoiling too soon. Zuke is soy and sake marinated tuna with a texture different to any other sushi and worth trying if you are a sushi connoisseur. A cross between cooked and raw with a hint of soy sauce. While sea urchin is a not a favorite among most Americans, I enjoyed it more than expected—it’s like taking a bite of the ocean.
Seared lobster and scallops in a creamy ponzu sauce arrived next and I savored every single bite. The lobster was cooked to perfection and came out with my chopsticks. I loved the light texture of the creamy sauce, which paired well with seafood.
Chef Zhang surprised me with two pieces of Aburi Toro Salmon or seared fatty salmon with a light drizzling of sake sauce. They tested it out this past summer and it was a hit among their customers. Nigiri-style sweet scallops nigiri style followed, which is common in Japan.
I prefer to sit bar when at a sushi restaurant since I enjoy the friendly atmosphere. I met a couple that live in the neighborhood and told me how much they love this restaurant. The wife, Lisa Olson, said, “Sushi Keiko is consistently excellent. We love to sit at the bar and it’s one of our go-to restaurants.”
For dessert, David highly suggested I order the fried bananas with ginger ice cream and a drizzling of chocolate syrup—as if my meal could not get any better! The crispy texture of the bananas on the outside then warm inside was a phenomenal concept. The ginger ice cream clearly made in the kitchen, had real ginger in every bite.
Sushi Keiko is more than a neighborhood sushi restaurant with families and couples who return weekly; it stays true to Japanese traditions.