Sticky Rice is so very H Street: Hip, Young, and Tasty!

I realize that I may be the only D.C. resident who did NOT have an awesome time over Inauguration weekend, but I probably overestimated my capacity for working my ass off at catering events while everyone else is having fun. Which is to say, it's my own damn fault. Whining aside, I've finally found time to write my review of D.C. sushi restaurant, Sticky Rice.

Sticky Rice is on H Street NE, in an area struggling to be known as The Atlas District as opposed to "you know, that stretch of town where cab drivers are too afraid to go." I have faith in H Street--any neighborhood with a rocking sushi bar, a New Orleans-style speakeasy, a fanciful burlesque theater, and a pirate-themed bar/restaurant offers a delightfully hip and decadent alternative to dive bars and Irish pubs, and is already attracting a loyal clientele.

The restaurant was packed on a Friday night, and the hostess quoted us a wait of over an hour. We sat at the bar instead, and though some Hill staffers decided to sing along with the Commodores at the top of their lungs over our shoulder during our entire meal, a little house sake numbed the pain.

Sticky Rice's menu shows restraint and creativity that's rarely seen at other sushi houses. (I often struggle at other places to discern the difference between a roll with eel, tempura, and green onion from another one with eel, crunchy, and scallion) And their specials are not to be missed. Mr. Luz, my dining partner for the evening and my lover for what I like to think will be life, started with an oyster shooter from the special menu. This "shooter" came in a rocks glass, filled to the brim with a large, shiny oyster layered with chilled vodka, sriracha, and roe. Mr. Luz was in heaven, and demanded to know how the bar made money giving drinks like that away for a mere $8.00. The special menu also listed Lamb "lollipops" with a cilantro crust, and a beef filet "sashimi" with sesame oil. Both looked and smelled amazing, and we're crossing our fingers that we can expect something similar on our next visit.

Also, Sticky Rice's vegetarian options are enough to make a "can I have your dry-aged Prime NY Strip steak medium rare" girl like myself consider turning to the dark side. I'm dying to try their South Roll (tempura fried sweet potato, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.) And even their miso soup is friendly to carnivores and veggies alike: it packs a complex, earthy flavor without the bonito flakes.

After consulting with the bartenders and sharing 2 large sakes, we ordered the Sticky Balls, the Chili Roll, the G.I. Joe Roll, and the Godzirra roll (I know it's not PC, but just TRY ordering that without doing the eyes-bulging TV show announcer voice..."God-zeeee-rahhhhhhh!!" I bet you can't). I'm not usually a fan of sushi rolls that are covered in tempura and then fried, but the Sticky Balls worked: the spicy acidity of the sriacha complemented the richness you expect from a crab and tuna roll with eel sauce. No surprises, it was rich, flaky, and yummy--but perhaps best for sharing.

The G.I. Joe roll was fun, with yellowtail, cream cheese, scallions and crispy wasabi peas. The peas could have been puliverized a bit more--imagine the texture disurbance they cause in a mouthfull of cream cheese and yellowtail--but I'd definitely eat it again. In both the Godzirra and the G.I. Joe, the chef spread the cream cheese with a delicate hand, which I appreciate. If I want lox, I'll head to Scarsdale, grab a bagel and some schmear, and get a mani-pedi at the shopping mall while I'm at it.

If you take anything from this review, it should be that you MUST ORDER THE CHILI ROLL. Oh dear Lord--it's everything a dish should be. It's got some zing to it, and all of the flavors blend together into an overall impression without getting lost. The Chili Roll is tuna, matchstick cucumbers and jalepenos, cilantro and grilled pineapple. I plan on taking the Sticky Rice Thirty Day Challenge*, and I'm going to eat the Chili Roll every day. At $9 a pop, it's cheaper than therapy and you leave feeling feeling more blissed-out than you can believe.

After dinner, while the wannabe Capitol Steps screamed the lyrics to "Brick House" approx. 1.5 inches behind us, the bartender sent us another large sake on her, and the chef sent us a green tea mochi dessert on him. It's still unclear whether these gifts were because a.) we were eating like crazy at a place where some people just order the tater-tot bucket b.) I'll never be able to listen to the Commodores again without weeping uncontrollably, or c.) the bartender had twice forgotten our sake in the microwave. But we were happy to have them, and were too blissed-out from the Chili Roll to notice much. The mochi cakes were fantastic...the two grass-green cakes were served in Japanese dumpling spoons, and were chewy and soothing on the outside and icy on the inside without being too sweet.

After dinner, the couple to our right and the bartenders wanted to know why weren't staying for the big bar crowd that was sure to show up later. All I can say is, until take the 30 Day Challenge (*meaning I eat there every day for 30 days in an attempt to name and design my own roll) I can't see myself showing the discipline necessary to avoid a food coma at a place as delicious as Sticky Rice. Any suggestions on the name/design for my Sticky Rice roll? I'm thinking of a New Orleans theme (crawfish w/jambalaya rice on the outside?) but I'm open to suggestions!

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