Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Makoto


vengroff
 Share

Recommended Posts

I met some Japanese diplomats today. We spoke at length about Ichiro-san's success in Seattle, and eventually turned to food. They recommended Makoto as far and away the most authentic Japanese food in town. They said it was founded by the personal chef of a former high-ranking Japanese diplomat and named in his honor.

Thay said the omakase is well prepared, authentic, and well priced at $45 + supplements for toro and a few other items.

Have any eGulleteers been?

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Makoto is truly amazing. It is located on the ground floor of a row house on MacArthur Blvd. There are 11 seats at the counter and 14 seats at the tables. One must remove one's shoes upon entering. Ito-san is very cool and low-key. Snag a seat at the counter, if possible. I went with a friend who owns Asian restaurants. The parade of plates was astounding - 10 courses in all. The staff is very gracious. Expect to spend some money, though. After the main course you are asked if you would like to repeat any courses. We went for more sashimi and tempura soft shell crabs. I love this place!

Mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This place is the biggest Japanese restaurant secret in town. I live next door and it took me 6 months to realise it was a resturant! It's hardly obvious, even when you walk straight in front of the entrance.

Very small, very expensive, great quality, definitely recommended. Many times I have seen diplomats from Germany (their embassy is about a half mile away) and French (about a mile) subtly entering or exiting.

There is a sushi take-out above (that I believe is affiliated with Makoto), and I'm happy to say I visit at least three times a month. They even have a weekday lunch special for $5.95 (eat-in only) that is simply great, great value.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can't believe all the rave again about this cute place....agreed the ambience and service is spectacular, but the sushi.....good at best. The fish wasn't terribly fresh when I was there....the tuna was ok...the salmon was lack luster. tiny portions compared to other establishments. I feel as though people are too wooed by the cozy confines of the restaurant to form an objective opinion of the food itself. Also, what;'s the deal with not knowing what you're ordering? The waitress kept saying...."chef chooses what is most fresh" All my girl wanted was some spicy scallop and we had to go al la carte since we didn't know what was coming with her dish. I will go again, since I'm a big sushi fan, but first time was a bust. Best kept secret in DC metro area is MomoTaro Sushi up in Rockville. Go there weekly at least and never lets me down. I realize that Makoto may be more true to form of the original sushi....but there was so little fish and rice it was hard to even pick up as one piece...falling apart on me like the expecations I had for this joint....one more gripe: no wasabi! "Chef puts just right amount on every piece:" not for me miss dosile!!!!!!!

Well don't just stand there......get some glue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

I have been to Makoto a dozen times-or-so over the years, and shaped by the crusty shell that has gathered around it, my opinion has become less critical, more accepting - think of the elegant decay that defines Venice which has literally been sinking for centuries.

I still want to judge Makoto neck-to-neck with the finest restaurants, but that is simply not fair. The chef's menu, as always, has 1-2 compelling courses, a thing-or-two that shouldn't have been included, and the rest falling within the genre of interesting but not-quite-there. But yo, homeys, it's $45 for about ten courses! And if you order the tenderloin (and I urge you to despite your natural inclination to get the fish as the main course), you'll have a decadent, satisfying four-gulp portion of steak that is easily worth $10 by itself. Their small fatty pork dish is as good as anyones in Washington. The cold, unfiltered sake, though expensive at about $12 for a small carafe, is one of the city's great unknown treasures. The persimmon with a tofu paste is beautifully presented, but ultimately bland: but it's persimmon! - where else in the city will you get that as a savory course? You get a good scallop, a good shrimp, a couple mushrooms, all thrown into a miniature teppanyaki thing and overcooked right before your eyes. The small inital courses are always more interesting than the inevitable grilled-protein/soba/shaved-grape-ice which is the triad finishing the meal. Their sushi/sashimi has, in the past, been as-good-or-better than anyones in Washington, although my recent visit was perhaps the result of El-Nino: the fish was okay, but not world-class like it has been before.

It needs to be repeated that the 10-course chef's menu is $45.

Where does Makoto fall short? It dicks you on the incidentals, and I don't mean maybe. The supplements to the Tsukuri (raw fish) course are a rip-off. Avoid them and get what comes with the tasting menu (trust me on this). Thirsty? Ask for some water and you'll be told that they only serve "bottled water," but what they plop down in front of you is this El Cheapo soft-plastic half-liter Pennsylvania-Turnpike "spring water" that is so insulting that you'd prefer to have DC tap water in its stead. Your incidentals will easily and quickly double the course of your meal if you're not careful. The cold, unfiltered sake is worth the price, but other than that, try to avoid the bottled water, steer clear of the fish supplements, and don't order anything extra. Several years ago, I'd feel like a cheapskate advising you to do this, but things are different now: restaurants are not turning over two seatings each night on every table. You won't be hurting them at all if you go in and stick to the basic chef's menu with a beer and some tea, at least not during the week.

This is my summary: Get the tasting menu. Order the tenderloin (not the salmon, or orange roughy, etc.) as the main course. Don't stress about the sobas, which other than the fermented bean curd, are virtually interchangeable though you'll never go wrong with the mushrooms or the yams. Do not order any extra sushi or sashimi. The last time I did this I paid dearly for extra fatty tuna, fatty yellowtail, spanish mackeral, uni, and egg, and quite frankly the only thing worth getting out of the bunch was the egg (yet the single greatest piece of sashimi I've ever tried was the fatty yellowtail on a previous visit.) Stay away from the bottled water. Be careful on your ever-increasing cold-unfiltered sake tab, which can quickly rise because it's so good. If you do this, you'll walk out of Makoto thinking to yourself, gee, how did they pull that off at that price? The answer: the chef's menu should be priced a bit higher than it is. Go see for yourselves, as this remains one of the great fine-dining options in Washington if approached with caution. "Fine-dining" is relative, but this place at least goes through the motions and makes an attempt, even if it sometimes falls short.

Cheers,

Rocks

Edited by DonRocks (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a killer post Rocks, thanks for taking the time to compose it. The relativity of dining, the price-to-value ratio of dining, is something I wish we addressed more frankly and more honestly especially in light of celebrity chef worship, with the added costs of such worship, on one hand and the threat chain restaurants provide to independent restaurateurs below the most elite level, on the other hand. $45 for what you described is an amazing bargain even if it isn't the best it possibly could be or the spare-no-expense best of its type in this town or any town. Again, thanks for helping to put things into perspective--it's a more complex perspective which often gets lost amidst the crummy-but-good/Chowhound-style/ethnic babble and the supreme praises heaped on the one or two elite restaurants in the city.

When I lived in Glover Park I didn't make the effort to trek to Makoto often enough. Thanks for reminding me why I should make the effort now.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I ate at Makoto a couple of weeks ago (same visit to D.C. that took me to Komi) and quite liked it. It had been recommended by a friend, and we quite enjoyed it. My dining companions that night were two Danes and an Icelandic woman who also liked it, though they found a couple of the courses too "fishy" (hey, more for me).

I liked pretty much everything, having gotten fish (orange roughy?) as my main and soba with natto (fermented soybeans---was this what the original post described as fermented bean curd?). I did warn my dining companions away from the natto, but it turned out to be hardly natto-ish at all---no slime at all, and not all that strong in flavor.

The water is a total rip-off, but otherwise we were happy.

Can you pee in the ocean?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

natto (fermented soybeans---was this what the original post described as fermented bean curd?)

Yes, sorry. It has been a few years since I've gotten that, and I had forgotten that is indeed soybeans, not bean curd. I also remember now that, like you said, it wasn't all that potent despite the server having warned me about it.

One thing's for sure though: I'll never forget the term "natto."

Today's trivia tidbit: Makoto means "honesty" in Japanese.

Edited by DonRocks (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was sceptical the first time that I ordered the steak (not typically associated with Japanese cooking unless you're talking Benihana) over the fish, but DonRocks is correct. It's a great piece of meat and I would not order any of the alternatives. Agree with everything else he said about Makoto, especially the quality of the sushi/sashimi offering (again, the upgrades are not worth the money).

Value of this simple kaiseki is great - I usually just get tea or a beer. The waitress asks near the end of the meal (before dessert) if you would like another order of anything. Never did this, but I'm curious what another order of steak would be?

Can't add anything to DonRocks' description except that sitting at the counter offers some entertainment as you watch the meals being prepared.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ate there once at lunch...maybe I'm confused about the style of restaurant it is...I thought it was a sushi house so that's what i ordered. And I felt the sushi was nothing to rave about...the ambience and service on the other hand were terrific.

So is Makato a sushi restaurant or a Japanese restaurant that oh by the way serves sushi?

Well don't just stand there......get some glue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is a Japanese restaurant that added sushi because customers asked for it. The first year or two the sushi selection was very limited and not always included as a course during the meal.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

Went to Makoto tonight and had an interesting second course: dumpling sitting in a thick (almost slimy) sauce with small mushrooms, topped with two small pieces of uni. The best thing about it was an earthy (barnyard?) fragrance coming out of the bowl. I spent a minute with my nose over the bowl :rolleyes: before digging in.

Also had the soba with yama-imo (mountain yam) which adds a bit of sliminess for those who enjoy it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

Makoto is the kind of place that makes you better than you really are. Smaller. Neater. Quieter. More graceful. In short, a match for the lovely women who orchestrate your perfect evening.

I went on a sultry night, entering this calmer world through a lovely enclosed carved wooden entrance on MacArthur Blvd. Inside the door, doll-like steps lead steeply down to a tiny alcove with a cobbled floor. The hostess slid back the shoji and welcomed me, then pointed from my elegant size 5 strappy black sandals to a large pair of floppy slippers, the kind Beaver’s father might request, along with a pipe, after a long day at the office. I slid them on. She smiled, and led me into a tiny dining are that seemed to shrink around me.

Halfway across the polished wooden floor, one of the floppy slippers shot ahead during a forward step. I giggled and cried, “Oops, there goes my slipper!!” The hostess lifted one magic eyebrow. Its puzzled upward arc transformed me into a hulking hayseed, complete with bouncing Adam’s apple and an oatstraw clutched between my horselike incisors.

At the sushi bar, I stored my purse in a little wooden box that doubled as my seat for the evening. Within 5 minutes I had my drink of choice, green tea in a beautifully rough earthen cup, had ordered the tasting menu, and unwrapped my chopsticks. I discarded the crumpled paper strip beside a black marble slab that was my place setting. A waitress, quiet as a shadow, picked up the chopsticks and carefully placed them on a porcelain holder, then quietly removed the crumpled paper. My Adam’s apple bulged even larger as a tinkle of meditative New Age piano music filtered through the air. I noticed a miniscule speck of my earlier lunch on my pink silk blouse.

The first course arrived quite soon: two porcelain dishes in a lacquer box, one containing pickled “winter vegetable,” the other, steamed and chilled snow pea leaves. I don’t know what winter vegetable actually is, but I had had it before in a Japanese pickle assortment. It’s a gray-green stalk, incredibly, delightfully crisp, with a light sweet/tangy pickled flavor. The snow pea leaves were dressed with a slightly sweet/tart dressing that had a smoky undertone.

The second course was my favorite of the entire evening: a baby spinach salad with one poached shrimp and one poached scallop, a tangle of shredded carrot, and a slightly sweet citrusy dressing with an undefinable herbal note. This dressing was so light that it was almost tasteless on the tongue, but rose in a cloud of aromatics through the back of my mouth. It was one of the most mysterious and delicious fragrance/tastes I’ve ever encountered. The waitress told me the dressing was of yuzu – Japanese lime. Whatever it was, the high amount of aromatics in the juice made me think it had been freshly squeezed.

The third course arrived. It was a tiny selection of tuna and grouper sashimi with freshly grated wasabi – the first I had ever had. Wow. The fresh wasabi has a complex sweet heat that the powdered stuff doesn’t even hint of. In the midst of my wasabi revelation I realized I had eaten from both ends of my chopsticks, which were identically tapered. I surreptitiously wiped off one end before the shadowy waitress who refilled my tea cup could take note.

Fearful of being cast as a rube who eats the table décor, I neglected the bright-green serrated-edge leaf beneath the fish. Too late, I learned that it was a shiso leaf, with flavors of mint and basil.

The fourth course was another revelation. I’ve never had anything like it… chicken wrapped in a tofu skin, poached in a few swallows of smoky golden broth, which also contained a few nuggets of crisp-tender asparagus and a carrot piece steamed to sweet custardy goodness. The tofu skin wrapper was resilient and chewy without beng tough, the chicken firm and flavorful.

The fifth course was SOOOO delightful… a softshell crab cut into two pieces, each coated with finely crushed rice cracker crumbs and salt, deep fried, and served with a big piece of lemon. Sweet, crunchy, salty, tart.

Next came a marble slab with three small tastes: a bowl of cold crab mixed with grated daikon and topped with salmon roe: a nugget of cold rare roasted beef and a slice of kelp coated with Japanese black pepper, and three bites of peeled chilled asparagus in miso sauce. Despite the understated beauty of its presentation, this was probably my least favorite course. I don’t know if the beef was kobe, but to me it tasted just like roast beef. The kelp was very nice: chewy and salty, and the pepper was highly aromatic with just a touch of heat. The crab was quite good, fresh and sweet, but I disliked the wet graininess of the daikon, and the roe was a little strong for my taste.

The seventh course was a small sushi collection: yellowtail, grouper, and tuna, with fresh wasabi tucked between the fish and rice. The fish was wonderful, and the presentation striking: these were carefully placed on a narrow, dark green leaf laid diagonally across a black marble slab.

The eighth course was grilled salmon with a miso glaze. My favorite part there was the skin… so crisp and black and caramelized with salty-sweetness.

The ninth course was a bowl of sobe noodles in clear, smoky broth, topped with “mountain vegetable.” The waitress said this was like a fern… I didn’t see any resemblance to fiddleheads. Instead, the bright green slivers looked to be some kind of a chopped grass. Some pieces had the appearance of flat blades, while others were round, jointed stalks. It had a very spring-green taste that was a distinct contrast to the deeper flavor of the broth.

The final course was the perfect ending… a red grape sorbet. The ice was not granular but flaky, a really delightful texture. Barely sweet, nicely tart, gorgeously colored.

I paid my bill (just $59 with tax and tip) and thanked my waitress, noting that my voice was now low and melodic. I rose with grace. The slippers didn’t flop as I glided toward the shoji. My posture was impeccable. Outside the entrance, the sky was booming with a storm. Fat drops were plopping on my head, and I couldn’t catch a cab.

But I could write a bad haiku.

Alone in the rain

The untasted shiso leaf

Was my umbrella.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Missy,

thanks for this post! I loved all the thoughtful detail and personality. I want to be better than I am too...

$59!!? That would be one of the many benefits of drinking green tea.

...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 11 months later...

Still a great deal: $64 with tax and tip. I only had tea but I noticed that sparkling water can now be ordered instead of the stale bottled water which used to be the only choice.

Enjoyed trying to balance the amount of lemon juice and salt on the kara-age soft shell crab. I still have not gotten it perfect for my taste, but am homing in on it. Also enjoyed watching the broth for the soba being prepared, the cook taking several small sips (poured from the pot into a small bowl to ensure cleanliness) and adjusting the seasoning between sips.

Sitting at the counter is a little more comfortable for taller people because your feet are able to dangle a few inches below floor level. I enjoy watching the three cooks behind the counter preparing each dish, guessing which one is coming to you, and following the flow of the courses.

NOT recommended if you are going only for sushi or sashimi (see hillvalley's post above). They do not detract from the other courses but it is not a strength of the restaurant. You do get fresh wasabi on the side with the sashimi. FWIW, the size of the pieces and the lack of wasabi in which to drown the sushi are appropriate for the Japanese.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

Is Makato still open? My Danish friends recall their meal there with me two years with great fondness, and if it's still there and still doing a lovely job we would like to return when we're all together in D.C. again next month.

Can you pee in the ocean?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My last vist to Makoto was about 9 months ago.

It is a unique in my experience. It's a tiny place, you sit on little wooden boxes, definitely not comfortable if you're tall or big.

The service is super attentive...they have a high server to diner ratio.

We split the omakase which was reasonably priced..something like $75. We then ordered a bunch of a la carte things and a fair amount of sake.

The food was really good...I've never had Japanese food like that. But the portions are tiny.

When all was said and done, it was $175pp out the door.

My advice is to eat a little before you go, limit yourself to the omakase, and don't buy too much sake, you'll enjoy yourself a lot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe it it still alive and well and operating to near capacity just under the rader screen.  Please post if you go!

Great news. I'll post, though no pictures, as this is a semi-work dinner (and the small size and lighting aren't conducive to photos in any case, as I recall).

Thanks for the info.

Can you pee in the ocean?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is a unique in my experience.  It's a tiny place, you sit on little wooden boxes, definitely not comfortable if you're tall or big.

No problem, as we've been before but it was long ago enough (and there's been very little info here on eG in the interim) that I wanted to make sure it was still worth the trouble.

I found the portion sizes (for the omakase) just fine, and so did my dinner companions, so I'll go ahead and book.

Can you pee in the ocean?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...