Himitsu only has 24 seats. And it doesn’t take reservations, or parties larger than four. So if you want to come here, you should prepare for a long wait. But once you finally get into this Japanese small plates spot, you won’t want to give up your seat for the rest of the night, because eating here is like going to one of the best dinner parties you’ve ever been to. (So, about 1000% better than the pre-Inauguration party hosted by your distant acquaintance Keith-who-works-on-the-Hill.)
A meal here feels personal, unpretentious, and slightly wacky - like dinner at your coolest friend’s house. The already small space is cut in half by an open kitchen, so even if you don’t talk to anyone around you, you’ll feel like you’re all eating in the same living room. Cartoon animals on the menu mark which dishes the owners are particularly excited about, and one of those owners will personally walk your table through each section. The music is upbeat and fun, but quiet enough that you can still have a real conversation. And as a final touch, your bill will come accompanied by a mini dinosaur figurine. If you think this all sounds like it’s trying a bit too hard, that’s not the case. It’s actually just the right amount of charm.
And we haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Himitsu’s main strength (when it comes to cocktails, too) is combining really good, fresh ingredients in unique ways. The Japanese-inspired menu changes nightly, but there’s always a selection of raw fish, and some other twists on more traditional dishes, like uni toast with Alabama white sauce, or mackerel with plum and crispy quinoa. Everything is meant to be shared, and to do it right, you should order two to three things from each part of the menu (snacks, raw, and hot plates) to split with the table. Know that if the Kobe beef is available, it’s an absolute must-order - mixed with the side of umami butter rice, it’s pretty much perfect.
Since you’ll definitely have to wait, make sure you come here with people who won’t get overly impatient - which is probably a good rule of thumb for picking friends in general. Plan to kill the inevitable wait time at one of the bars on Upshur Street, then speed-walk back to the restaurant when your table is ready.
Overall, dinner at Himitsu isn’t just better than those lukewarm crab cakes Keith handed out last January while simultaneously trying to network with the cousin of someone whose uncle works for CNN. It’s one of the best meals you can have in DC right now - like the kind of dinner party you only wish you were capable of throwing, and well worth the effort to get in.
This spread is a combination of chicken liver mousse and nduja, and it comes topped with sunflower seeds, lemon, basil, and parsley. It’s a great way to start your meal here.
Three pieces of giant shrimp in a curry sauce. Splitting these is hard, so we recommend going for two orders.
Himitsu has a rotating selection of raw plates, and if the yellowtail is on the menu when you go, definitely try it. It comes with Thai chili and orange slices, and tastes extremely fresh.
Brioche toast, dripping with butter, topped with Alabama white sauce and caviar. Just take our money.
This thinly cut, perfectly cooked Kobe beef is one of the best pieces of meat we’ve had in DC. It’s served with a huge bowl of umami butter rice (which would be a satisfying meal by itself), garlic-soy sauce, and kimchee.