Photos By Jonny Grave, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
Zentan is in an odd location. It’s not exactly downtown and though it’s on 14th St. NW, it doesn’t feel like it’s on the same street as Churchkey. They’re two blocks away. I’m writing about the restaurants location before the food because what you want to order may depend on your company.
If you’re at the Donovan House location because some nice people are staying in a nearby hotel and are visiting from a not-so-adventurous state, I’d recommend any/all of the Nigiri and Sashimi. Any of it. The tuna belly is somewhat adventurous but an easy sell for someone that’s afraid of things like sushi. Example:
“Hey dad, do you like sushi?”
“Do you eat tuna fish?”
“Great. We’re getting sushi that tastes good.”
And that’s how you turn parents on to sushi.
If you’re at Zentan with a local without dietary restrictions, the must-trys are the Inaniwa udon and the Kaisen gyoza. The udon makes for a fantastic lunch on a chilly day. The gyoza is delicate and decadent. The little pouches pack a flavorful punch. The poached sea bass and Hokkaido scallop dumpling with butter ponzu is Instagram good.
If you’re at Zentan with a vegetarian (which may be odd since Zentan is known for their sushi but that’s fine and you’ll see why), the garlic edamame and peas & sprouts should be on your table. This isn’t meant to be an insult to vegetarians. The edamame is meant to be shared and it shares well. The peas & sprouts is an incredibly simple, flavorful dish that left this meat eater completely satisfied.
If you’re at Zentan for the cocktails, good job. Their cocktails are fantastic, especially the Backporch Rising Sun. Japanese whiskey is having a moment, but skip it. It’s horrible. Sake, on the other hand, is not horrible and Zentan has some of the best in the city. It’s damn near impossible to recommend any one sake. Therefore, have a chat with knowledgeable staff. They recommended a Kiku-Masamune Taru for our more savory dishes and it was ideal.
New to Zentan, Executive Chef Yo Matzusaki has brought his comfort foods to the restaurant. He’s a warm and inviting person and it shows in his food.