About a month ago, I went to Washington D.C. for an environmental activism conference called PowerShift. From March 15-17, myself and a group of other Hamilton students learned how we could most effectively utilize our individual skills and resources to create change for the better.
It was pretty c0ol, but not particularly food-related. Which begs the question, why bring it up on this blog?
Well, those few days also happened to be the weekend when my dad was also in D.C. for a business trip – what an awesome coinkydink is that?? SUPER awesome, that’s what.
We hadn’t seen each other for over a month, so of course my dad insisted that he take me out to a fancy dinner.
He claimed that Yuraku was probably the best fusion sushi restaurant that he’s eaten at. I was hesitant about the “fusion” part because most sushi restaurants that try to do too much end up going waaaay overboard, serving weird and unappetizing rolls. But I trusted my dad’s sushi-sense, and agreed to try this place out.
Yuraku is run by a father and son team; the senior is a traditionally-trained sushi chef, while the younger of the pair is the one who adds the funky spins and twists to each sushi dish.
It really didn’t look like much from the outside, being in the middle of a strip mall. But once we entered inside, I realized just how popular this place was – it was bustling, full of people ordering, delivering, waiting… and eating.
My dad and I decided to get the “Sunny’s Special” – it’s the chef’s special (the son’s name is Sunny), and although it’s usually served only on the weekends, the chefs made an exception for my dad because he’s a loyal customer :D
Because my dad held this place in such high regard, I was super excited to start eating. What I didn’t know was exactly how much food was going to come out….
Sorry if I blank out on some of the dishes – I ate most of these a while ago, and finals week means brain = mush. MUSH.
Anyhows, we started out with appetizers:
Juicy and succulent, this was a rich way to start off the meal – can you guess what it is?
SALMON NOGGIN’. I know, right? I was really surprised to hear my dad say that the head is usually the best part of the fish; but the cheek and the jaw area is where all the really good, fatty meat is. Who would’ve thunk?
Mmm… Smooth and pudding-like steamed egg; one of my favorites. How can something so simple be so good?
Definitely one of the more traditional dishes of the evening – sashimi with a drizzle of gochujang.
Sashimi salad – pieces of tuna on top of greens with a sweet, tangy, sesame vinagrette.
At this point, I was getting an idea of what this meal was going to be like. See, “Sunny’s Special” is technically an unlimited, all-you-can-eat sushi smorgasbord. As long as you finish your plate, the Sunny will keep on sending out more sushi.
So pretty much, when you get the Sunny Special, you engage in a battle. That’s right, a BATTLE, I tell you. My dad and me versus the chef, duking it out to see who will come out victorious in this delicious, gastronomical showdown. Are you ready for this??
Pieces of tuna wrapped around masago, perilla leaaves, and drizzled with a slightly sweet roe sauce; the sesame leaves definitely made this dish, giving the sushi a clean, peppery bite.
A really Western-style dish compared to the rest of the meal; raw oysters on the half-shell, dabbed with a little bit of cocktail sauce and just a bit of a thin wasabi drizzle.
The scallop sushi dish: whole scallops with a sweet, slightly-mustardy sauce (in the back) and scallop nigiri on top of wilted spinach (in the front).
One of the most beautiful dishes of the night: a tuna “rose” on top of an asparagus “stem, served with a sweetish, black-bean (I think?) sauce.
You might have noticed that most of the dishes are not completely savory; in fact almost every single sushi that we were served tonight had some sweet aspect to it. It was different, but not unpleasant – chef Sunny somehow managed to strike the right balance between sweet and savory in most of our plates.
EXCEPT for this one…
Shrimp and sprouts rolled in tuna, served with… STRAWBERRY JAM. Yeah. That was a little weird. I thought that for a sushi course, this one was waaay too sweet, and even a little bizarre. The other elements were too mild to really counter the jam, and it kind of overwhelmed everything.
But Sunny bounced back on the next course: a mildly spicy tuna nigiri served with 2 different kinds of roe and a raw egg yolk – that’s the yellow blob in the middle. This was rich, but not in a fatty, oily way; it just had a luxurious mouthfeel because of the egg, and that really helped smooth everything out.
Another unique sashimi; the bottom to this was a tempura-fried vegetable, which was topped with tuna, avocado, and roe, drizzled with a balsalmic reduction along with something else…
Abalone sashimi; apparently, abalone tastes better when it’s NOT super fresh. If it’s actually allowed to age properly, like this one was, it develops a brinier and more complex flavor.
And then… my favorite sushi of the night:
This was so unique and delicious. Instead of the traditional sticky white rice, Sunny actually pan-fried rice “patties” so they became toasted and really crunchy. On top of that, he put smashed tuna, APPLE, seared tuna, and HONEY. Remember what I said about the chef mixing salty with sweet? This was a perfect example of that; and with the textural contrast from the super-crispy rice, I was in heaven while eating this “nigiri.”
Seared white tuna; this one was a show-stopper. The waitress brought out a black plate alight with flames, to go along with the “seared” theme of the dish. The tuna that had been charred on the outside, but left raw in the middle was really delicious because of the temperature contrast.
Another scallop dish; pure, unadulterated scallop with all of its smooth, delicious flesh.
As you can imagine, at this point, my dad and I were getting RIDICULOUSLY full. But we agreed to keep fighting; if we stopped now, who knew how many more delicious dishes we might miss out on? WE HAD TO PERSEVEREEE!
Have you guys ever heard of monkfish? It’s a really ugly-looking fish, but its liver is actually the “foie gras of the sea.” I’ve never had real foie gras, but this kind of tasted like what I expected it would be like – really smooth and fatty, almost melting in your mouth.
Another impressive-looking dish: the Titanic roll. Tempura-fried lobster tail with avocado, crab, tobiko, and cucumber.
Uni served with halibut. I would like to tell you guys more about this dish, but honestly, at this point I was getting so sushi coma-ed that I could barely think straight…
But wait, boy do I remember this one. This was another sweet sushi dish: deep-fried banana wrapped in unagi, or roasted eel. Sound weird? Trust me, this was another sweet-savory combination that chef Sunny hit out of the park. It was so goood…
Deep-fried something, topped with banana, strawberry, and strawberry jam. Sorry I can’t remember this; I recall liking the textural contrast, but I don’t think this was one of my favorites. But can you tell that Sunny has been sending out more sweet dishes? I think he saw that the end was near and was heading to the “dessert” end of the spectrum.
At this point, my dad and I gave up. Threw in the towel. Called it quits. We really couldn’t go on anymore.
Once she saw that we were starting to slow down, the waitress came up to us and asked, “You guys can still eat more, right?” in that teasing, taunting voice, knowing we were too full to go on. Just look at how much we ate! Wow… It was a lot of sushi. I was honestly all seafooded out for the next couple of weeks after this meal.
So we told our waitress that no, we were done, and we were ready for the check. But she insisted on bring the dessert.
As if this entire meal hadn’t been indulgent enough already, we were served deep-fried mango ice cream.
To be honest, I didn’t like this that much. The concept is cool, but the mango flavor didn’t wow me, and the ice cream was rock-hard; we could hardly dig into it. We ate what we could though, and ended up staggering out of the restaurant, mourning our overly-gluttonous stomachs…
But I won’t lie, that was an INCREDIBLE meal. And for the amount of food we ate, the price was fairly cheap. And the popularity of this restaurant just goes to show how good it is. So if you’re ever in the D.C. area, definitely stop by Yuraku in Germantown; I promise you it’ll be worth the wait.
19773 Frederick Rd
Germantown, MD 20876