Jackson and Sandy Bain don’t always go right home to Mount Vernon when they leave their Old Town business. Quite often, they stop to get a bite to eat at Kyoto Restaurant.
“We love sushi and have tried every other restaurant. This is our favorite,” said Jackson Bain, who first got hooked on sushi at a restaurant near their former home in Arlington. He and his wife also go to the Far East on business and recall the sushi bar they went to in Beijing.
“The sushi came out on a conveyor belt, and you selected what you wanted. They kept track of what you ate by the number of plates you had,” he said.
The Bains moved to Mount Vernon about five years ago and found Kyoto, which is much more civilized than the place in Beijing. Located on Richmond Highway, just outside the Beltway, the exterior doesn’t do justice to what’s inside — a cozy setting with about 20 tables and a sushi bar that seats up to 10.
“When you sit at the sushi bar, you expect to be sociable. We’ve met some interesting people,” said Bain, remembering the Middle Easterner who sat in the corner and spoke on his cell phone the whole time, and the truck drivers from South Carolina who were trying sushi for the first time.
Behind the sushi bar, sushi chef Hiro Nakatsuka is doing what he does best — making sushi. He grew up eating sushi and said that he likes it all. After graduating from North Carolina State University, Nakatsuka returned to his parents’ restaurant and has been there ever since. Hiro’s father and mother started Kyoto 27 years ago in this same location. Nakatsuka’s father passed away last September, but Hiro and his mother (Nobuko) are carrying on the tradition of serving quality Japanese food.
Nakatsuka said that the sushi bar gets pretty busy. “I’m making sushi non-stop,” he said, but he is still able to converse with the customers, many of whom he greets by name as they walk in the door.
He also takes the time to explain to novices “The maki sushi is the rolled sushi, while the nigiri has the fish on top. Temaki sushi looks like an ice cream cone.” He went on to explain that not all sushi is raw, but in fact some of it is cooked, like shrimp, octopus, eel and soft-shell crab. Yes, soft-shell crab. Not your typical sushi, but one which was on the menu last week and which the Bains requested.
Although customers receive a slip of paper that they can use to check off their orders, they can also make special requests. Sandy Bain especially likes temaki sushi with eel wrapped in seaweed. Certain fish are always available, such as yellowtail, salmon, tuna, flounder, octopus, eel, shrimp and mackerel. Other fish are available as they come in.
Jackson Bain said that they call ahead sometimes and pick up sushi as a carry-out order. Their two sons will eat sushi but their daughters don’t really like it.
FURTHER DOWN Route 1 is Great Wall. It offers a large selection of nigiri sushi, maki sushi, as well as inside-out and medium rolls. Chef’s specialties include items such as crazy roll, deluxe roll, dragon roll, American dream, spider roll, volcano roll, Boston roll, Florida roll, San Francisco roll and Great Wall roll.
Across from Fort Belvoir is Midori Japanese Restaurant. It specializes in Korean and Japanese cuisine, and manager Kelly Myong said that they recently celebrated their 10th year in business by giving their customers a gift. She said that they have many regular customers who come in two or three times a week. “Often customers [who no longer live in the area] will stop by when they’re in town just to say hello.”
Myong’s husband is the chef and prepares the standard varieties of sushi. They also offer attractive party platters with a variety of selections. Platters run $39.95 or $59.95, depending on whether the platter contains four selections of each or three. Myong mentioned that the platter prices have remained the same since they’ve been in business.
IN OLD TOWN, Tim McIntyre finds that sushi makes a great lunch. He finds his way from his office in Old Town over to Tokyo Japanese Steak House a couple of times a month.
“I wouldn’t keep coming back if I didn’t like it,” he said. “The sushi is excellent. This is one of my favorite places.”
Chin Chong is behind the sushi bar preparing sushi, while his sister, Chi Chong, greets customers at the entrance.
“He [Chin] always had nice tuna and salmon, and good California roll,” said McIntyre. He points to the window in the sushi bar and says, “Have you ever seen such fresh fish?”
For lunch, guests can order sushi a la carte or order one of the special lunch dishes. A sushi combination of nigiri and maki sushi costs $8.95 for a regular plate, while a special is $10.95. Three different sashimi (raw fish) dishes are available, and there are combination dishes with sushi and sashimi. All sushi lunch dishes are served with miso soup and salad.
Chef’s specials include Tokyo special roll, 007 roll, funky roll and Vegas roll. Party Platters are available in 36 or 52 pieces.