Standing outside of the Westwood Center II on Ridgefield road in Bethesda, it is difficult to fathom that one of the best sushi restaurants in Bethesda is found in this old shoddy strip mall. But, next to the Weight Watchers and caddy corner from the Dominos is Yirasai Sushi and Café.
With such an out-of-the-way location, Yirasai has relied on word-of-mouth to keep its business booming. And booming it is. On any given Friday night, Yirasai is packed. But with such excellent service and delicious Japanese cuisine, it is not surprising to find that Yirasai has generated a multitude of loyal and regular customers.
The menu offers a variety of nigiri, maki and other special sushi rolls. One of my favorites is the Spicy Tuna Crunch ($4.50 for 2 pieces), a definite twist on your everyday nigiri sushi. For this dish, tuna is draped over a little mound of rice, dipped in tempura flakes, flash fried and topped with Yirasai’s special spicy sauce. The tuna practically melts in your mouth and the tempura makes it light and crispy. Under the Chef’s Special Rolls, I like the Volcano Roll ($9.95), made with eel, avocado, cucumber and topped with their sweet and spicy sauce; this roll is an absolute taste sensation. Another recommendation is the avocado salad ($4.95). For this dish, half an avocado is dressed with a sweet sesame dressing and topped with tempura flakes. For anyone who loves avocado or even just likes it a little, this is wonderful. While I normally share my sushi rolls with my dinner companion, I will openly refuse to share any of my avocado salad.
In addition to the assortment of sushi, Yirasai also offers teriyaki beef and chicken dishes served with rice and miso soup. I’m always so obsessed with the sushi that I have yet to sample the teriyaki dishes, but from what I have heard they are very popular and all cost under $8.
The décor is sparse, but the focus is on the food. From the moment you walk in the door you will feel welcomed. The wait staff is always friendly and attentive, providing efficient and gracious service. What makes the experience more special is that after every meal, most customers receive a gift from the chef. This gift is usually a few pieces of nigiri or sushi roll. Through my many chef gifts, I have been introduced to dishes that I would not even think of ordering, but now they are part of my regular repertoire. Besides the food, it really is the warm service and other extras that draw me back again and again.
While Yirasai is not metro accessible, it is well worth the trek. With such high-quality and fresh seafood, excellent service, and friendly atmosphere Yirasai is sure to continue to generate loyal followers.
Yirasai Sushi and Café
5110 Ridgefield Road
Bethesda, MD 20816
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