First Taste: Takumi Sushi
Little extras go a long way at this Falls Church sushi spot
The Bird's Nest, made of squid noodles, sea urchin, potato and truffled soy sauce
Falls Church netted a new sushi spot with the opening of Takumi Sushi in December. The restaurant offers an alternative to the kind of paint-by-numbers, predictable Japanese that doesn’t reach beyond basic sushi, sashimi, tempura and soba. Instead, Chef/Owner Jay Yu is building surprising dishes like a bird’s nest made of squid noodles, sea urchin, mountain potato and truffled soy sauce. Nearly every bite flying out of the kitchen or being passed over the sushi bar comes with twist.
Takumi Sushi chef and owner Jay Yu
Yu, a Falls Church resident, didn’t always have access to ingredients like truffles. After moving to the U.S. in his twenties, he made his foray into being a sushi chef at a grocery store. These humble beginnings at Safeway sprouted a career that took Yu to Raku in Bethesda, Md. and both Café Asia and Kaz Sushi Bistro in the District. At Kaz, he worked under Chef Kaz Okochi for 13 years, honing his craft. Okochi even sent Yu to Japan twice for research.
Nigiri sushi at Takumi Sushi in Falls Church
Sushi is the star because Yu draws inspiration from his senpai—the Japanese word for mentor. Like Okochi, Yu likes to dollop flavor boosters onto each piece of nigiri. Tuna gets a dot of Italian black truffle, salmon is made sweeter by a brush of mango purée and botanebi (a raw, sweet shrimp) pops with yuzu tobiko on top.
“A little bit of topping can change the whole taste of the fish,” Yu explains. Also worth seeking out: The nigiri that gets kissed by a blowtorch, such as seared salmon belly with lemon juice and sweet soy. Roll lovers should lean toward the crowd favorite Redskin roll named for Yu’s favorite team. It combines eel, spicy sesame, pickled daikon, basil and avocado.
Despite sushi’s leading role, diners would be remiss to skip several warm entrees from the kitchen — especially fried dishes. Whomever is working the fryer has a black belt in golden brown. The dishes are akin to what you’d find at a Japanese pub called an izakaya. Agedashi tofu, a bowl of lightly fried, soft tofu swimming in a savory dashi broth, is made memorable by the addition of mixed mushrooms to kick up the earthy, umami flavor. Those looking to indulge in comfort food should order a set of fried oysters served with rémoulade.
Only one dish misses the mark. The green mussels with wasabi and avocado sauce are lost in an overabundance of gloopy sauce that masks the seafood. If you’re looking for an appetizer from the sushi bar, opt instead for the yellowtail tartare with spicy tobiko or the aforementioned bird’s nest.
Takumi Sushi is currently waiting for their liquor license. Once it comes in they will launch a beer and sake menu. In the meantime, choose from eight different teas or a refreshing yuzu cooler that comes in a carafe.
The dining room at Takumi Sushi
Takumi Sushi is sleek with its grey tile and stringed lanterns, but the dining room was very much a DIY project. Yu’s wife, Mona Yong, made the fish wall hangings by cutting pages out of calendars and Yu’s former co-worker hung them. There are about 30 seats including some cushy booths, but the best seat in the house is at the sushi bar where you can catch Yu’s theatrics.
On a rainy Wednesday, the dining room was filled with a mix of double daters and families, including some who already appeared to be regulars.
“We keep telling the world on Twitter,” one of the diners tells her server. Soft music plays, making the restaurant a good place for friends to catch up sans aggressive decibel levels.
Go, Wait or Skip?
Sake lovers will want to wait to visit, but not long. With sushi as refined as Yu is slicing, it would be a shame not to sip sake simultaneously because the two form a pairing that bests wine and cheese. Other than that lacking liquor license, Takumi Sushi is in top form when it comes to speed of service and an expansive menu.
Takumi Sushi currently serves lunch and dinner Monday though Saturday.
Takumi Sushi, 310-B South Washington Street, Falls Church; 703-241-1128; www.takumiva.com