Kaz Sushi Bistro

An invitation from two moderators of a Facebook group that I am a member of had totally slipped my mind. But their reminder that day hastened me to get ready and rush to downtown to meet these out-of-town guests. Furthermore, the choice of location was perfect as I had been wanting to taste and write about the sushi offerings at Kaz Sushi Bistro since I had been eyeing it for many years, but never had the chance to step through its doors.

Sake Walking in, you sense the sleek minimalist decor and furniture, modern but not too stuffy or fussy. The space is quite crammed, much like stepping into a restaurant in Tokyo, thus lending a Japanese ambiance but in a modern sense. We quickly navigated through the menu which was quite familiar and well-designed for the hungry eyes. After ordering, we started off with a bottle of sake. Our waitress brought us an array of fine Japanese porcelain to choose from, which was an exquisite touch. One sip of that rice wine sent my taste-buds on high alert as I immediately recognized its refinement and superior quality by its smoothness and hint of fruit-like finish. For $70 a bottle, I guess one shouldn’t expect any less.

Cucumber and Smoked Mackerel Salad

One of our starters was Cucumber and Smoked Mackerel Salad. The beautiful plate arrived with the marinated vegetable interspersed with flakes of smoked mackerel and bands of wakabe seaweed. It was an interesting combination of sweet and sour flavors as well as textures. The smokiness from the fish was not overpowering as it acted as a foil to the other flavors. The accouterments of red mini chilies were a sensational pop as well as the dabs of Japanese mustard, akin to the English one but sweeter, that added more bold flavors to the mix. This dish was already sending me the first road sign of the direction that the meal was heading towards. Jicama and Seaweed Salad

The other appetizer was Jicama and Seaweed Salad. The bowl arrived with thin julienned strips of the jicama root, a dark seaweed, sesame seeds, lettuce, and microgreens. I enjoyed the combination of the slightly sweet crunchy jicama together with the seaweed that exuded its iodine sea aroma. The dressing was a light sweet and sour combination that did not overwhelm, but it was too similar to the above salad; a different flavor profile of the dressing would have made this dish a perfect accompanying partner to the above order.

Sushi a la carte Sushi Special 009

Now, Sushi Time. My friends decided to go a la carte and I chose a set plate from the chef’s special menu. Their order looked beautiful not only by the visuals, but I sensed the quality and the proper treatment of the seafood pieces just by their appearance. However, I did not try a piece and relied solely on their sense of contentment while they were eating them. My order was the Chef’s Sushi 009, as it was highly recommended by our waitress.  Each sushi piece was not only a different piece of seafood, but they were adorned with flavor elements comprising of Japanese mustard, citrusy yuzu, green peppers, yuzu-marinated tapioca pearls, flavored jelly, and salted plum. These elements added an individual personal kick to each bite that were bold and exciting without overwhelming the delicate seafood; even the pickled ginger was saltier and stronger than usual. I enjoyed each bite for their flavor “personality” in addition to their exceptional quality that made it a truly remarkable sushi experience for me.

Matcha Tiramisu Just when we thought we had enough, my gracious friend ordered a couple of desserts. The first was Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu. The cocotte arrived with a topping of green tea powder and brunoise of fruit. Underneath was a moist and luscious rich cake that was balanced by the slightly bitter tannin of the tea powder that spoke of healthy antioxidants to dampen some of the guilt from the cake; I appreciated the tea powder that reminded me of a fresh cup of quality green tea that I have drunk before. The pieces of fruit were well macerated and they lent some light fruitiness to the whole mix, making  this a truly decadent yet not overwhelming sweet. Molten Chocolate Cake

The other dessert was their version of Molten Chocolate Cake. Despite sitting on the table for some time as we were engrossed in our conversation, it oozed out its goodness onto the plate when we cut into it, an indication of it being perfectly cooked. Each mouthful exuded its rich dark chocolate flavor with a smooth mouthfeel from the use of butter. The side raspberry coolie was not perfunctionary since it was concentrated with a good tanginess in each drop that rivaled the strong chocolate. Despite having eaten two rich and excellent desserts, we were adequately sated without feeling overindulged.

My meal at Kaz Sushi Bistro was a superior experience that confirmed my hunch, as well as other reviews, of this establishment. The ambiance was inviting and polished with a wait and sushi staff (complementary aperitif from the sushi chef) that are charming and personable without being intrusive. The seafood was of exceptional quality that was treated with differentiated flavors that were creative yet true to the cuisine with bold flavors that matched the delicate pieces. As for the desserts, they did not play second fiddle as they were made to impress the diner at every level. Price-wise, I think that this level of dining was well-priced and worth the extra for the quality of seafood and the dining experience one gets here. I would easily return here to re-experience this level of fine dining.

Kaz Sushi Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


DSC_2370.jpgA bit more than a year ago, a close friend invited me to partake in a coupon deal at a Japanese restaurant in an up-and-coming part of town that has recently gone through some urban development.   I found the offerings delicious and authentic, but we were rather put off by the overall value of the dishes, and we did walk out a tad hungry, partly due to the lack of a single grain of rice served with our meal.  When another coupon offer surfaced again, I quickly bought the deal and decided to pay this establishment another visit for a second look at the food.

Located in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood near Chinatown, it sits in a newly built building that hosts other new and trendy restaurants which has become the center of social life in this part of town.  Kushi toutes itself as a Izakaya and Sushi restaurant.  The word Izakaya is rather novel in the local culinary scene, borrowed from Tokyo and Osaka meaning a place that is neither a bar or restaurant, but more like a neighborhood place that caters to everyone from all walks of life, from the working professional to the local resident.  With this type of clientele in mind, Kushi offers a wide variety in their offerings and this is reflected in the cooking styles.  The menu is divided into these traditional culinary techniques: Sushi, Kushiyaki Charcoal Grill, and Robata Wood Grill.  For this review, my visit during lunch time was however limited since the menu only offered only the first two categories during the day time.


DSC_2348.jpgThe sashimi and non-sushi dishes are categorized under the Raw Bar section in the menu.  I decided to order everything from here to get a sampling of their raw offerings. The raw oysters hail from Bedec Bay, Canada, and these medium size shells came with milky white oysters swimming in a shallow pool of briny liquor.  The oysters tasted very clean and rather mild in flavor, which is a good indication of the freshness and purity of the waters that it came from.  One not to risk any chances with raw oysters (I’ve heard enough scary stories from others), this did not feel like playing with seafood Russian Roulette and there was a sense of confidence worthy of bestowing one’s favorite hairdresser.

DSC_2350.jpgThe next raw dish was Tuna Tataki.  A piece of tuna has been quickly seared then marinated in vinegar for a while to impart some flavor into the fish.  The dish came with slices that revealed the opaque outer ring around the raw interior, sitting on a pool of soy sauce that was imbued with some dashi sauce made from bonito flakes.  The slices tasted slightly sour from the marination, and pieces of mild-tasting garlic chips along with some spicy grated daikon turnip added the interesting textural as well as flavor components.  Soft sheets of Wakame seaweed added further interest in the dish.  This small plate was definitely a hit for me on many levels.

DSC_2352.jpgThe other small bite was a bowl of Peel n Eat Shichimi Garlic Blue Shrimp.  The Blue Shrimp were transformed into fiery red from both the cooking and sprinkling of the red-hued Japanese Shichimi spices.  This crimson mix comprises of coarsely ground red chili pepper, Sichuan peppercorn, roasted orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, hemp seeds, ground ginger, and dry seaweed.  The cool-temperature shrimp were rather large, cooked perfectly with the flesh still moist and plump with the spices adding a distinctive slightly smokey flavor to the dish.  It is not quite as salty or heady like the typical Old Bay boiled shrimp, and I appreciated the natural sweetness coming through in these bites.


For the last cold dish, I ordered the Sashimi Trio.  This beautiful dish arrived with small plates of maguro tuna, hamachi yellowtail, and salmon.  The pieces of nearly translucent yellowtail tasted very clean with a faint hint of its mild flavor, with a topping of spicy shaved daikon radish with bits of crispy rice pebble.  The salmon was quite fatty which imparted a certain level of lusciousness to the tongue along with the distinctive salmon omega 3 richness.  But the star of this trio was the tuna whose large pieces of ruby-like meat tasted pristine in both freshness and in the unique lean tuna flavor which peaked my interest and I could not get enough of it – if pieces of ruby stones could be eaten, this is what I would imagine what they would taste like.  For $13, I feel that this dish is worth every penny – a must order in my books.


From cold to hot, and raw to cooked.  For the other half of my meal, I went for the Kushiyaki charcoal grilled items.  It was a pity that the wood grilled items were not available for lunch, but I was quite happy to settle for the charcoal version.  Visually, I will start describing from the right of the picture to the left.  The first item was the Chicken Breast with Shiso and Wasabi.  The pieces of poultry were mildly seasoned, enhanced by the slightly bitter minty Shiso leaves and the biting grated Wasabi. Next was the Chicken Breast with Shiso Leaves and Plum sauce.  It tasted similar to the previous skewer except in this case the plum sauce added a nearly cloying sweet tanginess to the bites.  Following it is Negima/Chicken and Scallion.  The pieces of chicken breast were well grilled punctuated by the smokiness and slight sweetness of the charred scallion pieces that added the necessary interest to the plain protein.  Next to it is the Kamonegi/Duck Breast and Scallion.  This stick proved to the most tasty among the poultry items due to the moist and dark flavors of the meat while the grilled scallion imparted the same sweet charred qualities as in the previous bite, while lacking the usual gaminess that duck may carry.

DSC_2369.jpgMoving away from poultry, I ordered the Pork Belly which had cubes of equally proportioned fat to lean meat on the stick.  The pieces of Berkshire Pork (considered one the best) were very savory with a slight sweetness and saltiness flavor in the moist and tender pieces which made the fatty parts delectable and even enjoyable and beyond sinful.  For the final skewer, I could not resist ordering the Wild Boar Sausage.  This delicately made sausage was moist and not firm with a mild tasting meat well seasoned with hints of herbs (rosemary and sage?) and a hint of sugar to round the flavors off.  All the skewered meat carried the distinctive smokey flavor imparted from having spent some time on the charcoal grill, boosted by dippings into the sides of sea salt, English mustard, and Shichimi spices.  These tasty bites took me to the city alley ways of Japan where these delights would be served for the hungry professional after a long day’s work.  For the dinner menu, the sausage is replaced by the popular chicken thigh skewer, commonly known as Yakitori.  The best deal for these grilled meats is the lunch set which serves four of your choices with rice, soup, and salad for $15 – definitely top of my list for lunch here.

DSC_2362.jpgKushi is definitely not the traditional Japanese eating establishment that most of us are used to.  It offers an amazing variety of traditional styled dishes in the cold and hot dishes, either raw or grilled on charcoal or wood.  It is one of the few places in the DMV that showcases traditional Japanese grilled dishes, which brings a breath of fresh air to the run-of-the-mill Japanese menu.  But the stars in this place are the quality ingredients and their attentive and knowledgeable treatment by the skilful kitchen, from the fresh Canadian oysters, the extremely fresh sashimi items, and to the tasty hot skewers of chicken, duck, pork, and the sausage bites.   However, here is a note to the post-carb diner: do yourself a great favor and order a bowl of rice to make the meal complete and for you to walk out satisfied.

Kushi Izakaya & Sushi on Urbanspoon

Hee Been Asian Bistro

Note: The Crystal City/Alexandria branch has closed.

Warning:  The following blog contains NO photos due to the lack of planning, and it was an impromptu visit to this establishment.  Furthermore, photos from all-you-can-eat buffets contain too much for the eye to digest and maybe hazardous to one’s health.

After enduring the ordeal of getting my blood drawn for a blood test at my doctor’s (yes, poor me, even though it was just a small prick), I decided to “reward” myself with a stop at an Asian bistro buffet not too far from his office.  Customarily, I would refrain from visiting all-you-can-eat’s because there is always the temptation of over-indulging and over-eating  – at my age, this is not a wise move especially given the fact that I’m planning to take my clothes off in a couple of weeks in public;  at the beach, I must add.  But with a phone app offer that was running out soon, I decided to visit this Korean-Japanese eatery.

Hee Been Asian Bistro sits above the Harris Teeter grocery store in a rather dead modern building complex (most likely a casualty of the depressed economy), located just off the busy Route 1 in the business-filled area of Crystal City, VA.  Finding it was quite easy once you notice Harris Teeter which is temporarily closed due to a sewage back-up in the supermarket (oh crap!).  Parking in the basement is free, which makes visits during the day time accessible and convenient (Crystal City has the same parking challenges as DC).

I paid it two visits on one day for both lunch and dinner (the punishment of gluttony I had to endure for this task!).  Walking into the establishment, you immediately notice the far wall covered end to end with several buffet sections displaying the various offerings.  It is rather overwhelming by such a large display, but hunger and growing anticipation quickly dissipate this sense of  confusion. The only remedy in such situation is to attack without hesitation, or “attaca” as composers would print in their music.

On one end, the buffet section contains various forms of salads, from the simple Potato Salad to the more bistro-like Crab Salad on Endive or the Apple and Arugula Salad.  I found the salads to be very fresh and tasty without being overdressed.  The next station was the Sushi section that contained amazingly at least 22 types during lunch time.  I was rather surprised by the freshness of the seafood and by the variety in this section, from Clam Sushi, Tuna Sushi, Octopus Sushi, and Salmon Sushi, to the different rolls that contained the fresh seafood made with velvety ripe avocado.  Fortunately, the Sushi Rolls have not be too “perverted” by overzealous sushi chefs with their bizarre creations as these were rather simple and unadulterated, the way I prefer my sushi rolls.  Again, freshness and good ingredients made these bites sing in my mouth.

Next to the raw fish section, there were the cooked Japanese section with Tempura Vegetables and Teriyaki Chicken.  I did not savor from this section as I have had my fair share of them in my lifetime.  Next to it were some Korean offerings of Squid with Vegetable Pancakes and Squash Pancakes.  I enjoyed the small round circular discs as they were tastier than what I have had in other places.  The Seafood Salad next to it was a tasty delight and I was nearly tempted into a second helping.  The Korean Noodles with Vegetable, Jap Chae, were very tasty, which I’m sure my BFF would love to stop by for some.

The next section consisted of tradition Chinese and Korean fare.  You know, the usual Chinese “stuff” like Fried Rice, Fried Noodles, Pot Stickers, etc, grub that I would not touch at all in most places.  But I did go for the hot Korean dishes: Spicy Squid stir-fry (how did they keep the squid tender?), Korean Pickles and seasoned cold cooked vegetables (I can’t get enough of them, no matter where, and the offerings were great), Cold Soba Noodles (rarely found but a great rendition here), and the typical array of Korean marinated meats.   The cooks waiting by the grill will take your plate of raw meats, cook them to perfection, and bring them to your table sizzling on an iron caste plate along with slices of sweet onions.  The large pieces of lettuce along with the different spicy bean sauces made the rather sweet beef short ribs (Bulgogi), or the spicy pork or chicken, perfect bundles of grilled meat heaven.  A couple of Thai dishes (Chicken Green Curry and Basil Chicken) were surprisingly good and filled with the Southeast Asian spicy and herbal notes.

If one hasn’t sated him/herself at this point, there is a rather generous dessert section.  It consists of cut fresh fruit, pieces of cake, and gello. Although the pieces of fruit were sweet and fresh, what I surprisingly enjoyed were the bite-size pieces of cake that were not too sweet and packed flavor, like the Strawberry Cream Cake and the Mocha Cake.  And as a traditional Korean ending, there is the Cinnamon and Ginger Tea that was laced with the mildly burning cinnamon flavor and the zinging ginger essence.

To celebrate a friend’s good news of a new job (finally, thank God/Buddha/Universe), we, along with her partner and friend, paid it a visit for dinner.  The buffet had the same dishes, in addition to the offerings of Snow Crab Legs (the celebrant was feasting on this like mad), Steamed Shrimp, Sashimi (looked very fresh and tempting), and Sweet Spareribs (which her partner seemed to enjoy) – such luxurious food items must be a result of the higher dinner price.  My friends thoroughly enjoyed and were very satisfied by the offerings and the high quality of the food.  I chose to order from the menu, Bibim Bap, which consisted of a large plate filled with grilled beef bulgogi, cold cooked squash, cold cooked carrots, fluffy egg pancake, cold cooked broad beansprouts, cooked watercress, and crispy lettuce ribbons, all tied together by a sweet spicy sauce – tasty and satisfying indeed.  However, I noticed that due to the lack of customer volume during the night, the hot dishes on the buffet line were starting to look a bit dry, sad and drab from sitting too long on the hot plate.

Hee Been Asian Bistro offers an incredibly humongous buffet with dishes made from good fresh ingredients and with expert hands at their two locations.  Currently, they are running a special of $9.99 for lunch and $17.99 for dinner for the month of June (thus this hastily written blog).  I see myself stopping by this establishment before the month is up, trying my best to refrain from overeating before my Full Monty (not quite, with a bathing suite on, of course) in a few week’s time.  Wish me luck!

Hee Been on Urbanspoon

Maruko Japanese Restaurant

The 11th day of August is an auspicious day that is well-embedded in my memory.  It is not a national holiday, a birthday, or an independence day – it is my parents’ wedding anniversary.  Every year, I am duly reminded of this date by my parents who will drop hints when I get a call from them a week or a few days before the day itself.  My parents view this date with the utmost importance, and the same expectation is expected from their children.  Forgetting to call and wish them on the 11th would warrant a slight chiding or an email stating, “You forgot Daddy’s (or Mummy’s) wedding anniversary”, depending who was the sender dropping the not-so-subtle reprimand.

To celebrate the occasion, my parents would take the family out for dinner, and their favorite place to mark the occasion was usually an elegant Japanese restaurant in a top notch hotel.  Growing up in Malaysia, Japanese cuisine was served primarily at high-end Japanese restaurants, and a visit to one was usually an elegant and fascinating dining experience, which at the same time exposed me to this rather exotic far-eastern cuisine at an early age.  These were the days before the proliferation of Sushi bars and Teppanyaki grills, which later became abundant and fashionable in major cities.   To reflect the special event that we were celebrating and to match the refined and exquisite ambience surrounding us diners, my siblings and I would dress up in our finest outfits – this was definitely no ordinary everyday dining experience.

With Sushi bars abound and Japanese restaurants everywhere these days, this type of cuisine is very accessible and has become well-appreciated by many.  My early experiences with Japanese food in Washington DC can be characterized and range from expensive but well-cooked food to inexpensive but rather inferior quality.   With a great number of these restaurants these days, competition has raised the bar, and as customers, we have started to expect more.

Maruko Japanese Restaurant has been located on a long strip dotted with some good restaurants (blog on Bangkok 54) in the neighborhood of Arlington, VA, for as long as I can recall passing down that road.   In its earlier days, it went by the name Matuba, but I suspect that a new ownership brought about the name change.  The realization of its new sign was as subtle and seamless as in the change of management, and the cooking has not suffered many bumps, if hardly at all, during this transition.

Squid Salad

Gyoza/Pot Stickers
Usually, I would forgo ordering appetizers here since I know that the main course is rather substantial for me, especially at this age of a slowing metabolism and trying to lose some weight from all this food blogging field work.  But I was feeling rather famished on one visit, and I decided to order an appetizer that was not my usual fare.  The Squid Salad was abound with strips of squid, sitting on a lettuce salad, and topped with a daikon radish, ginger, and miso salad dressing.  The strips of squid took me by surprise with their sweetness paired by their tenderness in each bite I took.  The dressing was the perfect accompaniment in this seafood salad with its slight sweetness and muted ginger-bite.  An order of Gyozas or pot stickers was tasty and good, but nothing different from what you could expect from a good restaurant.

Sushi/Teriyaki Combo 1

Sushi/Teriyaki Combo 2
One of my favorite fare here is The Teriyaki Chicken and Sushi Combination, a mixture of the hot and cold, the raw seafood and cooked chicken.  The thigh meat comes with its skin slightly charred from the grill, and it is slathered with a lightly sweetened sauce.  The other half of the order is a plateful of sushi (tuna, salmon, yellow tail and eel) and pieces of California roll.  The dish represents the best of both worlds in terms of textures and flavors, and it is quite hearty and satisfying on these levels.  A bowl of well-made miso soup as an opener is filled with slippery seaweed (wakame) and spongy bits of tofu, which whets one’s appetite for what is to come.  For less than $13, this combination is a great deal and a winner.

Sushi/Sashimi Combo

During the summer, I tend to order the large Sushi/Sashimi Combo that consists of pieces of Sushi made with Tuna, Salmon, Eel, Yellow Tail, Shrimp, and Squid, pieces of California Roll, and purses of Salmon Roe and Sea Urchin.   The dish is a feast for the eye and for one’s hungry stomach, and seafood freshness is notable here for the most part (the piece of squid was a bit too slimy for me but still edible  – perhaps a textural issue for me).   The sushi rice is cooked and shaped perfectly that they do not fall apart in the chopsticks, and it complements the seafood pieces mild ocean sweetness.  The Salmon Roe and Sea Urchin purses are bursting with a slight brininess that reflects their freshness and rich unctousness.   This dish is definitely a raw fish delight.  A friend’s order of Grilled Sea Eel (Unagi Donburi) looked great with large pieces of fish covered with a light sweet sauce sitting on a bed of rice.  However, my friend was slightly disappointed by that day’s meal as he claimed that he had had a better dinner there with that dish.

Spicy Tuna Roll

During my meal, our friendly waitress urged me to take a couple of photos of dishes coming from the Sushi Bar that looked delectable and irresistible.  One was a Spicy Tuna Roll that was not your typical version; this restaurant makes it with soya bean skin which I have never seen before.  The other dish was a Tempura and Crab Roll topped with flourescent red and green flying fish roe.  Even though they were not our orders, the visuals were so tempting for me to perhaps order them on the next visit and definitely when the weather gets warm enough.

Tempura Crab Roll

Maruko serves the customer delicious and fresh Japanese cuisine at a very reasonable price.  In time and with various restaurant visits, I have developed a sense of trust and dependability on its cooking and the freshness of its seafood, much like having one hairstylist that you would allow to have free rein with.   It is definitely one restaurant worth returning to time and time again, like the one my parents would take us to yearly for many years.  This place is surely Oishi, or good eats.

Maruko Restaurant on Urbanspoon