We here at Eat The District talk about sushi a lot. I have a small theory as to the nature of not only our personal infatuations with this cuisine, but with our love of sushi as a community; not just as a metropolitan community, not as an American community, but as a global community. The reason that we, as a race, love sushi is because when it is done right, it is arguably some of the best food on planet Earth. Sushi is a testament to simplicity and how far we can go with just fresh ingredients. Put simply sushi rocks.
I just wanted to throw that out there before any of you haters ask me why I’m doing another sushi restaurant. I’m doing it because I love them, and Sticky Rice is no exception. This H Street hot spot is one of the best known establishments in an up and coming neighborhood filled with notable eateries. My first experience with Sticky Rice was not as a restaurant goer but as a bar patron during their weekly late night speed bingo extravaganza. Surrounded by other options, Sticky Rice holds up just as a bar. Boasting an extensive cocktail menu, generous happy hours with $2 beers, and karaoke and games, Sticky Rice will let you drink the district the way you want. But if you want to eat, you won’t be sorry.
Sticky Rice has an extensive menu offering mostly Asian themed appetizers, pan-Asian noodle entrees and a sushi menu filled with rolls and specials. They also have tater tots… Cause… Uhm… WHO CARES! Tater tots are the yums. One important thing to note is that this establishment is vegetarian and vegan friendly. As a passionate meat eater, this would otherwise offend me, but Sticky Rice makes it work with entrees like the ‘Mock Chicken Szechuan,’ which both the bartender and a friend who ordered the dish marked as better than with actual chicken. They also have a number of interesting vegetarian maki rolls. Some really hit home, like the Santa Fe which refreshes with sweet potato, agave, jalapeno and sesame seeds. Some are a little less successful, like the South Roll, a tempura sweet potato roll with honey which is so sweet that it borders on dessert sushi. Others, like The Hot Hippy substitute tofu for the protein, so if you like tofu, which i kind of do, these alternatives really work.
Of course I had to try their iteration of the salmon skin roll to see how it held up against all the rest. It was certainly the crunchiest of the salmon skin rolls that I have ever had, but it was good and you still got that wonderful cooked salmon flavor.
I only note one questionable choice from Sticky Rice’s sushi menu and it involves how they use heat. I have experienced two schools of thought when ordering spicy rolls at sushi restaurants. Some restaurants use a spicy mayo based sauce either on top of the roll or mixed into the fish, while others roll the rice in a chili spice powder to get heat. Sticky Rice uses the latter method, which i often find less tasty and less spicy, and tends to dry out the otherwise moist and refreshing nature of the sushi. The interesting thing is that their tater tots are served with what amounts to a spicy mayo and it would be easy to translate this onto the spicy rolls. I experienced this while eating the Snap Crackle Pop, a spicy salmon, jalapeno, and cucumber roll which was oddly lacking in heat. It was still delicious and the fish was quite good but as a spice fiend, i would have loved a bit more.
But in other ways, Sticky Rice really nails it. One stand out was the Chili Roll which contained tuna, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno and grilled pineapple. The cilantro really sang and while the tuna and pineapple fought to overtake one another in your mouth, neither won and this roll achieved a great flavor balance. The truly standout dish of the night though was The Millennium Roll. A tempura fried lump crab meat, eel, smoked salmon and cream cheese monster, this roll comes out looking like a fried mess. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Topped with roe (fish eggs), sriracha and eel sauce, this roll is a flavor explosion. I was nervous that it would be extremely confusing and that the flavors would get lost in each other. Somehow though, The Millenium Roll afforded the unique creaminess and richness of the cheese and the crab, the smoke of the salmon and the eel and the spice from the sriracha all at the same time. It was magnificent and I highly recommend it.
Sticky Rice works as a date spot, as a nightlife spot, as a fun restaurant for group dining and as a popular happy hour hang out. So if you are looking for some sushi in the H Street neighborhood, Sticky Rice has your back. Stop in and say hi. You may leave a little drunker, a little fuller and a lot happier.