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Posted at 4:14 PM ET, 10/29/2008

Nori Asian Bistro: The New Sushi Taro?

By Julia Beizer

The gentrification of Columbia Heights marches on. Ruby Tuesday, Potbelly and Dunkin' Donuts have opened up shop -- and Panda Express is on its way. A few weeks ago, Nori Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar bolstered the ranks of the locally owned contingent, joining restaurants like CommonWealth, Logan @ the Heights, Pete's and Rumberos. Early returns of the new place are positive, if only because it's just so nice to have an affordable sushi spot in the neighborhood.

Sushi comes to Columbia Heights. (Julia Beizer/

I stopped in for dinner a week and a half ago and found a vestibule crowded with couples chopsticking various rolls. The space isn't wildly different from Mayorga Lounge, which previously occupied the grand theater. There's the awkward first room, the narrow dining room and the sleek bar upstairs. On my visit, the restaurant's service suffered from a case of the first-week jitters. It took two hours for our party of four to be served and one of the rolls we ordered didn't quite make it to the table. But the fried gyoza were crisp and tasty and the spicy yellowtail roll -- my go-to sushi dish -- had the perfect amount of zip. Let's be clear: this wasn't the best sushi I've ever had in my life, but four of us got out of there with very full bellies (including a few tall beers) for less than $35 per person. The $21 18-piece sashimi platter was a particular steal. We stuck to sushi, but the restaurant also serves noodle and stir-fry dishes for lunch and dinner.

Tom Sietsema recently reported that Sushi Taro, one of my beloved sushi spots, will be undergoing an upscale renovation in the coming months, which brings me to the question: Where do you go for affordable, reliable sushi? Not the mind-blowing kind, just the decent, Thursday-night takeout variety. If you've been to Nori Asian Bistro, do you think it could be that kind of place? For me, Nori lacks the warmth of Sushi Taro's dining room and I usually have better fish at the 17th Street staple. Still, I think the place has potential and I'm looking forward to seeing it grow. Your thoughts?

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | October 29, 2008; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Enough with this gentrification B.S. It's a restaurant for cryin' out loud. I doubt it displaced anyone.

Posted by: bbbolder | October 30, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Can't say I was too pleased with my Nori experience. Service was fine, the space was nice, but the fare was a bit weak (the gyoza was on the Costco end of the spectrum). I live close so I'll give it another shot, but as long as Taro is bus ride away, that'll still be my go-to. I hope renovations don't shut it down.

And the gentrification angle is a bit outdated. There are plus-sized fashions catty-corner for Christ's sake.

Posted by: plawcas | October 30, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

That is horrible news about Sushi Taro, the go-to spot for sushi that isn't terribly overpriced. Bad business move.

Posted by: maclean1 | October 31, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

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