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Makoto

4822 MacArthur Boulevard Northwest, Georgetown, Washington, 20007, United States

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In the unlikely setting of a residential area of leafy Georgetown is family-run Makoto, which has been serving Japanese food for over twenty years. It is a little piece of Japan in this prosperous town of elegant townhouses and avenues, where you leave your shoes at the door and swap them for Japanese slippers, then enter the narrow dining room room. A dozen stools are arrayed alongside a wooden counter, with a few tables in addition. Behind the counter the chefs work to prepare the dishes for their customers, passing the sushi across the counter directly to the diners. An eight course menu is available for $70 in the evening, but at lunch there is instead a series of simpler menus, from a bento box through to fried mackerel, all with pleasant miso soup and a dessert, mostly $15 to $20. A dish of three mussels in a simple herb broth was the first dish presented, which was OK though I did not think the mussels were particularly impressive (13/20).

Sushi is prepared the traditional way, the warm rice pre-loaded with vinegar and wasabi in the proportions deemed optimal by the chef, just as happens in Japan. I noticed that the wasabi was proper grated wasabi root, not the coloured horseradish paste used in most places. Sushi of Boston mackerel was very fresh (15/20), salmon rather lacking in flavour (13/20), and nigiri tuna (big eye tuna) pleasant but ordinary (13/20) When I started chatting to the chef he produced vastly better quality bluefin tuna instead (16/20).

Eel was served in a lacquer box with rice and was carefully cooked, the cooking juices working nicely to flavour the rice (14/20). I also tried a fried butter fish, which you can eat whole (13/20), along with red snapper garnished with fish roe (13/20) and pickled mixed wild mushrooms, which were very well selected and nicely pickled (15/20). I was impressed with a very good grape sorbet, made with carefully selected grapes and having excellent texture (15/20).

Service was very polite and helpful, and the bill came to $79.20 (£49) with bottled water but no alcohol. However I had deliberately ordered quite a lot of food in order to try different things, and the set options themselves would have been entirely adequate, so at lunch you could eat for less than half this. Makoto was a very authentic experience, with a majority of the other diners at this meal being Japanese.

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