Shōtō Washington DC
Shōtō, a modern Japanese restaurant downtown, is the closest DC will ever get to Miami where eating for the sake of being seen is an art. And while the people here are for show, it’s the food that steals the spotlight.
There’s a bouncer at the door, a strictly-enforced dress code (no sneakers, ladies, no matter how much you try to convince the manager that these are your nice shoes), and the kind of low-lighting that makes you feel like you're somewhere deep underground, hidden even from all the mice and rats in downtown DC.
There’s a perfectly acceptable omakase that will run you around $125 per person. But the best way to enjoy Shōtō—and the art of the Japanese grill—is to go a la carte. Order the short rib braised in a chili-soy glaze or a charred, but beautifully caramelized wagyu tomahawk steak that's roughly the size of your head. You’ll be spending more than $125 per person, but it’s worth it for the unlimited meat and grill options.
The restaurant is packed on weeknights, mostly with sharply dressed co-workers enjoying an endless stream of sake while patiently waiting for their clients to handle the bill, and people looking to impress their significant other, not their accountant. And on weekends, a DJ plays an assortment of loud, ambient sounds that we can only describe as alien music or something straight from the twilight zone.
Shōtō's got some quirks (seriously, who needs oil diffusers releasing customized luxury scents that don't smell like anything?), but the impressive Japanese grill makes them worth overlooking. Especially for DC diners looking for a flashy evening where they can dress up, eat well, and ignore the world for a while.
Hamachi Pirikara Ninniku Gake
If we had it our way, every meal would start off with an order of this yellowtail hamachi. The cuts are clean, the fish is fresh, and the garlic ponzu marinade is the ideal acidic compliment to a simple, but satisfying dish.
photo credit: Rey Lopez
These little taco bites are a great palate cleanser, and a refreshing break from some of the heavier entrees on the menu. While there are six different kinds, our favorite is the tuna akami. Each potato chip sized-shell is stuffed with tuna and topped with a tangy yuzu chili miso that packs a punch.
Gyu To Shishito No Kushiyaki
As an entry to how good the grill here is, start with the robata beef skewers. Made with shishito peppers and marinated in a sizzling chili soy glaze, it takes discipline not to pop these bad boys in your mouth all at once. But savoring each smoky, bittersweet bite is critical to enjoying the layers that make this dish so great.
Gyuhire Sumibiyaki Karami Zuke
The beef tenderloin is one of the more affordable meat options ($44), and one of our favorites. That’s because the tender meat is charred but caramely, and served with a red chili sweet soy sauce that brings out the sweetness.
Wagyu Tomahawk Steak
What’s not to love about wagyu? This thick, marbleized slab of beef is so delicately and tenderly cooked that it feels like you’re cutting through butter. The 34 ounce Australian steak runs $210, but it serves a group of four comfortably and will leave everyone eagerly nodding their heads and smiling into the night.