Sunday, March 14, 2010

Kushi - A Promising Work in Progress

I met some friends at the recently opened Kushi near 5th and K NW. Kushi is a great sophisticated addition to the growing neighborhood of Mt. Vernon Triangle. For a good first-take on the restaurant itself BrightestYoungThings has written a piece with a good overview.

Since Kushi is all the buzz right now it was full which didn't bother me as there was plenty of room in their spacious bar section as we waited for a table. I met Younes who is the resident mixologist. We asked to see their specialty cocktail list and he said that he hadn't put one together yet but was already working on a few original, nameless ideas which he was eager to let us sample.

The first nameless drink consisted of Bombay gin, Cointreau, honey, kumquat, lemon juice and egg white. By incorporating egg white into the drink, it's appearance was a milky-white - almost the appearance of something like a white-Russian. What I tasted was quite the opposite. It was very light and clean. The kumquat and Cointreau gave it a bit of tropical flavor and the gin blended in well balanced by the honey and lemon juice. The egg white gave the drink a bit of body but one that didn't linger. A thick sliver of orange zest along with the lemon juice gave it a crisp, bright finish. This will be a great summer-time drink.

The second nameless drink Younes made incorporated cilantro into the mix. I'm always a fan of using herbs in cocktails which can add a whole new dimension to a cocktail. Along with the cilantro came fresh ginger, lime juice, vodka, sake and club soda. Younes warned me that he would have preferred to have also used ginger beer which he was out of and that the carbonation was out in the club soda. What he produced was another light and clean-textured cocktail. The general flavor came off as a highly-evolved mojito. The cilantro gave it a sweet, grassy taste and the vodka and sake did not overwhelm the palate at all. Though I was warned it would be flat, I think too much club soda was added. It diluted the flavors. The ginger was lost and the lime was weak. I look forward to trying it again with the ginger beer and might recommend to up the ante with the lime and ginger to add a bit more pop to the palate. Overall, it has great potential.

As for the restaurant, it definitely needs to work out the kinks with service and delivery. I think it's pointless though to critique an establishment literally days after it has opened. Any new business will have to get its bearings and polish the edges. The atmosphere is open, fun and sophisticated but not snobby. The decor is a minimalist, modern-Asian look with an open kitchen. We went on a Saturday and they had a DJ playing a great mix of songs. I have to give the DJ props for playing some Kate Bush which I hadn't heard in years.

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