You could say that my first foray into the world of food criticism came when I was 10. I was so devoted to Japanese food that I ended up in the background of a photo in the newspaper review of my favorite purveyor of teriyaki and katsu. In my gustatorily obsessed heart, a perfect bowl of sticky rice is love.
Japanese food has been a challenge for me since moving to NoVA. It’s taken me almost a year of living in the region to find a Japanese restaurant that spoke to me. But that’s exactly what Maneki Neko in downtown Falls Church does.
Surrounded in its eponymous beckoning cats, as well as shower curtains meant to separate customers in the COVID era, I spent longer than I should have figuring out what to order. Specials lean toward the Okinawan, thanks to the presence of co-owner Futoshi “Tao” Takazato. I was tempted by pork knuckle soup and green tea-flavored cold soba noodles with tempura. But for purposes of sharing with readers, I ultimately ordered basics that are always on the menu.
The Chirashi Deluxe comes not in the usual bowl, but with fish loaded onto two stories of a sushi boat. The flesh is sufficiently fresh that even the non-traditional inclusion of salmon betrays nary a hint of fishy flavor. The single slice of crisp-edged eel was my favorite, buttery enough that I may order a bowl of the stuff next time. The sashimi is on the large side, not my preference, but the rice beneath the fish? It’s the best I’ve had in months, lightly vinegared, but still compellingly sticky. And that is love. // 238 W. Broad St., Falls Church
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