Restaurant Review: Murasaki Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar

Murasaki Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar
4620 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016

Murasaki sushi

Murasaki, located at 4629 Wisconsin Avenue, has been a fixture in Tenleytown since it opened in 2001 and a favorite of the nearby Japanese Embassy.  However, it’s easy to miss this delightful sushi restaurant, given its unassuming facade in an unattractive strip of Wisconsin Avenue, just down from the dilapidated, midnight-black former site of Babe’s Billiards.  Ignore the exterior surroundings.  Once inside, the casual atmosphere with touches of Japanese decor punctuated by the restaurant’s signature purple creates a nice environment to enjoy a meal.  The only downside is that the low ceiling and long rectangular room give a bit of a cafeteria vibe.  The evening was damp and drizzling, so my husband and I could not take advantage of the outside patio, which through the windows looked charming and a step above the interior design.

The staff at Murasaki are friendly, though their style of service leans toward the slow and casual, as the waiters stroll through the dining room.  The chef and sous chefs, whom diners can see preparing sushi behind a long counter toward the back of the restaurant, often greet guests as they enter or give a hearty thanks as patrons depart.  It’s a nice touch without being over the top.

Having read reviews on Yelp and elsewhere online, my husband and I steered clear of the miso soup, selecting the itako and kaki fry as appetizers.  The grilled marinated octopus of the itako was tender and just the right level of chewy, with the red sauce providing a touch of spice that complemented the sesame and seaweed that accompanied the seafood.  The deep fried, panko breaded oysters of the kaki fry were to my taste a bit too oily, but hey, they are deep fried after all.  I will say that the oysters were plump and juicy, and the tangy katsu sauce was delicious.  The kaki fry could do without the mustard that came on the plate, which was unappetizing, looking like some kind of excretion that landed on the plate.

For our main course, again we took a note from online reviews, including this 2007 Washington Post review, and stuck with the vast assortment of sushi rolls Murasaki has to offer.  Of the four we chose, the Screaming Spicy Roll and the Dragon Roll were by far our favorites.  Don’t let the name put you off; the Screaming Spicy Roll has a subtle spice that builds, which combined with the smoky sauce that accompanies it is absolutely delicious.  Visually, the Dragon Roll is beautifully presented, appearing as an Asian dragon snaking across the plate.  The eel is so tender and sweet that even my husband, who normally shies away from eel, kept coming back for more.  The other two rolls – Spider Roll and Murasaki Roll – were fine, but definitely overshadowed by the Screaming Spicy and Dragon rolls.  The tuna, yellowtail and salmon in the Murasaki Roll were fresh and tender, while the soft shell crab in the Spider Roll had a nice crunch, though I wished there had been more of the crab and less of the lettuce.

To cap off the meal, I had the black sesame ice cream, a choice for which I need to give other reviewers a hat tip.  I might not have tried the dessert if it had not been so highly recommended.  The purple-grey ice cream had a delicious nutty flavor that put a smile on my face.  It was so good that it didn’t need the chocolate sticks, blueberries and strawberry poppers that came with it.  In fact, those accoutrements diminished what was otherwise an elegant end to the meal.

All in all, we had an enjoyable sushi experience at Murasaki and plan to become regular diners in the future.