The Hot Plate: An Eatery That’s Likely to Stick

Sushi Spot Fills H Street’s Need For More Dining

Posted June 11, 2008 at 4:23pm

While bars have been plentiful on H Street for some time now, the trendy corridor has just recently started to gain dining options beyond standards such as McDonald’s and Popeye’s. The new Asian restaurant, Sticky Rice, is helping to establish the street’s emerging dining scene.

[IMGCAP(1)]Sandwiched between such watering holes as The Pug and Palace of Wonders, this sushi haven stands out, and for more reasons than its bold decor of deep red walls and paper lamps. With more than a dozen sushi rolls supplemented by entrees such as Osaka Tuna (served with the restaurant’s trademark tater tots) and Sticky Kabobs (shrimp, scallops and vegetables speared over rice), the menu has enough variety to satisfy the appetites of meat-lovers, vegetarians and vegans alike.

The budget-friendly restaurant at 1224 H St. NE has been open for about three weeks and has seen no shortage of hungry customers. The more creative sushi offerings include the G.I. Joe ($5.25) roll with yellowtail, cream cheese, scallions and crunchy wasabi peas, and the restaurant’s special Sticky Balls ($8), consisting of tuna, crab, sriracha and rice in an inari pocket that is deep-fried with scallions, wasabi dressing and eel sauce.

The Sticky Balls stole the show with their crunchy texture and spicy aftertaste, though they were rather hard to eat with chopsticks as they kept breaking apart. Unfortunately, there were a few sushi options that weren’t quite up to that standard. For instance, the Crazy Calimari ($9.50), consisting of tempura-fried calimari, tamago, cilantro, cucumbers and sriracha, was a bit heavy on the cilantro, taking away from the overall taste.

For those who are looking for a little variety in their meal, the restaurant, which originated in Richmond, Va., offers a starter combo ($10) that features tuna, yellowtail, salmon, tilapia, shrimp and tamago nigiri.

The extensive appetizer list adds even more variety. The Sticky Scallops — pan-seared scallops in a house brown sauce with cashews — are served six on a plate and are a nice respite from the uncooked seafood. The chicken pot stickers were also a favorite, with their tender noodles and delicious filling.

While dining is the main attraction at Sticky Rice, the restaurant does offer a full-service bar on the first floor featuring 19 beers, four of which are Japanese imports. The bar is inexpensive, with beers ranging from PBR for $3 to Guinness and Sapporo topping the list at $6. Eight wines by the glass or bottle are available, with the priciest glass coming in at $7.50 and the priciest bottle less than $30.

Keeping with the Asian theme, Sticky Rice offers a wide range of sakes served in small or large sizes and in bottles. The Moonstone Pear, a cold sake, was excellent as pear was the dominant taste, avoiding the distinct rubbing alcohol flavor of many cheap sakes. On Tuesday nights, the restaurant offers karaoke starting at 10, making cheap drinks a must. In the future, the restaurant hopes to offer trivia on Sunday nights and half-price sushi during “Sushi Heaven” from 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Mondays.

Hot Plate’s chief complaint was that, though friendly, the service at Sticky Rice was a bit slow. The food tended to come in waves, with one order coming a good thirty minutes after the other dishes. With the restaurant only being open for three weeks, one has to wonder whether Sticky Rice is simply breaking in the new staff and working to find its feet.

But regardless of that flaw, Sticky Rice is a welcome addition to the burgeoning dining scene in the Atlas District. It’s nice to be able to grab a meal before running to see a show at Rock and Roll Hotel or to listen to some jazz at Pap and Petey’s. Bottom line — if you feed them, they will come. Sticky Rice doesn’t have to be phenomenal to be a hit; it simply has to provide good food for a reasonable price and people will flock to one of the few dining options on H Street.