Written by on May 24, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(No website found at time of publishing) – Ballston neighborhood, Arlington, Virginia

How I heard of this place: My friend Seraj introduced me to Matsutake when we were invited to celebrate his birthday at a hibachi restaurant.

Type of cuisine: Japanese, as well as hibachi-style meals. Appetizers such as gyoza and chicken-lettuce wraps, miso soup and edamame, as well as an a la carte menu featuring Japanese- and Korean-inspired cuisine (teriyaki, steak, bengogi), a full sushi bar and their lengthy hibachi selections.

Ambiance: Nearly floor-to-ceiling windows surround the space that is Matsutake. The walls, unevenly cut stones in tans and browns, give the space a rustic, yet modern appeal. Fabric room dividers, like half-curtains with sumo wrestlers and kabuki artists separate the space between the kitchen and the sushi bar, the restaurant and the restrooms. Small, wooden shelves host wooden model boats, ceramic vases, and Japanese style, laminate bowls and flat sushi plates. Inset lights line the high ceilings, creating dim, mood lighting, while round, brown-colored paper lanterns with the bonsai tree and flower decorations fall over the sushi bar. Light, bamboo-colored wooden chairs line the sushi bar, and are also found throughout the establishment, at tables separated by wooden banisters holding glass with etched flowers, creating a cubicle-like space between parties. Lone paper umbrellas can be found over a couple of tables closest to the windows overlooking Wilson Boulevard. Three or four hibachi grills, with seating at the bar for eight, laughing and joyous, surprised and excited patrons, look onto the grill, where your chef entertains and prepares the meal you are about to enjoy.

What I ordered: To start, we had two appetizers, one Gyoza ($6.50), Japanese style pan fried beef dumplings, and an order of the Chicken Lettuce Wrap ($13.95), sauteed chicken with onion and mushrooms served with a pile of thin, curly julienned carrot strips and large leaves of iceberg lettuce. A large glass of cranberry juice was also ordered by our most hungry dining companion! I ordered off the Kids Menu, being a little less hungry than what I knew would come with the full order of hibachi. I went with the Steak & Chicken ($14.95), which came served hibachi-style, with fried rice, two grilled shrimp and a selection of seasonal vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, onions and bean sprouts). Two of my dining companions ordered the adult portion of Steak & Chicken ($25.95), one with steamed rice and the second with fried rice (for an additional $1.75). Each meal also came with miso soup and a salad of iceburg lettuce, red cabbage and julienned carrots. Our out-of-town guest opted for the Filet Mignons hibachi ($27.95). We had a shared order of the Filet Mignons & Chicken ($27.95) and our birthday boy selected the Lobster & Filet Mignons ($34.95).

What I loved: While most everything had the same flavor – lemon juice, soy sauce, salt and pepper – the shrimp were grilled absolutely perfectly. Soft, juicy and coral-colored. The beef tender and and flavorful and the fried rice simple, yet abundant. The shrimp was so good, in fact, that I caught the morsel flung by our chef, in my mouth, on the first try, from at least five feet away!

Why I loved it: It is always a treat to meet your chef, joke with him and watch him in action, as he creates onion volcanoes, spins and tosses raw eggs without breaking them, and wows and awes with pyrotechnics throughout the preparation and creation of your meal.

Cost: Average to high ($24-$35 per adult-sized hibachi dinner entree)

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