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Building a new era of sushi culture in the capital, Washington DC

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By Aya Ota

Washington DC is the nation’s capital, and the center of international politics. In such a city where top-ranked people from all over the world gather, there is a restaurant which offers traditional Edomae style sushi, and wows gourmet customers. It is “Sushi Ogawa”, which is highly appraised by numerous media outlets since its opening in February of 2016, as a place where you can have top-class sushi of not only DC, but of the whole US.

Minoru Ogawa, the owner/chef, was born and raised in a sushi artisan family where his father and older brother were both sushi chefs. He is a veteran of a 40-year career as a sushi chef. He went to Washington DC in 1986 to open a branch of a prominent high-end Japanese restaurant in Hirakawa—cho (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo). The time was in the middle of bubble economy era, and he was demonstrating his great skills daily in front of Japanese politicians and government officials who were visiting DC. After that, he went back to Japan, and went back to the US in 2006 as a master sushi chef of Mandarin Oriental Group. While managing their sushi division of the entire US, he entertained their customers with his creative and gorgeous presentations of sushi.

After that, after returning home for the second time, independence in 2013. "Sushi Capitol" opened in Capitol Hill district of Washington DC.

In Sushi Capitol, in addition to an Omakase-style sushi menu, many a-la-carte items such as sushi rolls, karaage, and tempura are also served.

 There is no mistake in regarding Mr. Ogawa as one of the history-making pioneers in the past transition of Japanese cuisine popularization in the US. I cannot help but noticing the arrival of a new era of Japanese cuisine in the US, seeing the opening of this long-awaited authentic Edomae style sushi restaurant in DC by such a pioneer, Ogawa, named under his own. He explains the reason for the decision to open this restaurant this time as follows: “I was convinced that American customers had grown to appreciate authenticity more.”

In this restaurant, only Omakase-style dishes are served. Chef Ogawa wants customers to enjoy just sushi to the fullest. The typical course consists of 3 appetizers, sashimi, 10 pieces of Nigiri, soup and a dessert. No other typical Japanese dishes such as California rolls, Karaage, Udon, etc. are served. The seafood ingredients are Japan-caught, and air-transported daily. He is very particular about the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and uses 3 different distributors. Each ingredient is prepared in the most appropriate way. He makes sushi rice with the utmost care, generously using high-quality rice, vinegar, and salt. He also serves sushi with freshly-ground wasabi and house-made Nikiri-shoyuwith perfect timing.

Chef Ogawa’s thoughts are represented also in the restaurant location and interior designs. It is built in a quiet residential area where many foreign ambassadors reside, but is not considered to be very convenient. People gather purely just to taste good sushi. The approach to the entrance from the street, the corridor that stretches straight from the entrance door, the counter seats that are divided from other spaces, etc. are hidden from outside, and appear somewhat mysterious. The sushi eating experience at “Sushi Ogawa” feels like a series of sacred rituals.

Ungreedy Ogawa says, “I just keep making tasty sushi seriously and diligently” It is surprising that they can offer this authentic quality sushi omakase starting as low as less than $100. It is easy to understand that 50% of their customers are repeaters. They collect customers only by word of mouth, but no advertisement. When “Sushi Capitol” opened in 2013, it took half a year to get on the right direction. However, “Sushi Ogawa” took only 3 weeks to start filling the restaurant with reservations.

Due to Sushi Ogawa’s success, the coming of a few more authentic Edomae sushi restaurants in Washington DC are in progress. Their second restaurant is also in progress by request. I would like you to please visit “Sushi Ogawa” that will likely keep making histories in the Capital, Washington DC.


首都ワシントンDCで鮨の新時代を築

アメリカの首都で国際政治の中心地、ワシントンDC。世界各国から政財界の大物が集まるこの場所で、正統派の江戸前鮨を提供し、食通の客をうならせる店がある。『鮨 小川』——2016年2月に開店以来、数々のメディアから、“ワシントンDC内のみならず全米トップクラスの鮨を食べられる”と、賞賛を浴びている。

オーナー兼料理長の小川稔氏は、父親も兄も鮨職人という家系に生まれ育ち、鮨職人歴も40年以上という大ベテランだ。鮨職人として最初にワシントンDCへやってきたのが1986年、平河町にある屈指の高級料亭の出店に伴ってのこと。当時はバブル経済の真っ只中で、日本からワシントンDCを訪れる政治家や官庁関係者を相手に、日々腕を振るった。いったん帰国後、マンダリン・オリエンタル・グループのマスター鮨シェフとして2006年に再渡米、全米の鮨部門を統括。創意工夫にあふれた華やかな鮨で客を楽しませた。その後、二度目の帰国を経て、2013年に独立、ワシントンDCのキャピトルヒル地区に『Sushi Capitol』を開店。ここでは、おまかせ鮨を提供しつつも、巻物や唐揚げ・天ぷらなどの前菜も数多く用意している。
 
間違いなく、小川氏は、米国での日本食普及の変遷を見て、その歴史を作ってきた一人と言っていいだろう。その小川氏が、満を持して、自身の名前を冠につけた正統派の江戸前鮨店をこの地に開店したことで、日本食の新時代が訪れたことを認識せざるを得ない。「アメリカ人客がより本物志向になったのを実感したから」——小川氏は同店開店理由を語る。

「鮨だけを心ゆくまで堪能してほしい」という小川氏の想いから、メニューはおまかせのみ。前菜3種盛り合わせ、刺身、にぎり鮨10巻、お吸い物、デザートという構成だ。カリフォルニアロールのような巻物や、唐揚げ、うどんといった、ほかのメニューは一切提供していない。魚介類は、日本産の天然魚を毎日空輸で取り寄せる。品質の高さと鮮度にこだわり、業者を3社使うほどのこだわりようで、それぞれのネタに最適な下ごしらえを施す。コメはもちろん、酢や塩に至るまで、高品質な日本産食材を惜しげもなく使い、細心の注意を払いコメを作る。そして、おろし立ての本わさびと手作りの煮きり醤油を適量つけ、絶妙な間合いで鮨を出してくれる。

小川氏の想いは、店の立地や内装にも現れている。店は、各国大使が多く住む閑静な住宅街にひっそりと佇み、決して便利とは言えない立地。純粋に、同店で鮨を食べたいという目的のためだけに客がやってくる。歩道から入口までのアプローチ、扉を開けてからまっすぐ伸びる廊下、他の空間とは仕切られたカウンター席……店内の様子は外から伺い知ることはできず、どこか秘密めいた印象がある。『鮨 小川』で鮨を食べる体験は、まるで一連の神聖な儀式のようにすら感じられる。

「美味しい鮨をまじめにコツコツ作っているだけ」と小川氏は欲がない。これだけ本格的な内容にも関わらず、100ドルという値段設定にも驚かされる。客の50%がリピーターということも納得だ。一切宣伝をせず、集客は口コミだけ。2013年に『Sushi Capitol』開店したときには、火が付くまでに半年かかったという。『鮨 小川』開店時は、3週間足らずで予約客で埋まるようになったという。
 
同店の成功を受け、今後、ワシントンDCには、正統派江戸前店の出店がいくつか進行しているという。同店もまた、2号店の開店を依頼され準備中という。今後も、首都ワシントンDCで新しい歴史を刻んでいくであろう『鮨 小川』、ぜひ足を運んでみてほしい。



Sushi Ogawa
2100 Connecticut Avenue NW #100
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: 202-813-9715
http://sushiogawa.com

Lunch Monday-Friday  12-2:30PM
Monday-Saturday  5 – 10:30PM
Closed on Sunday
#alljapannews #sushi #washingtonDC #ogawa

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