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Transportive O-Ku Makes Believers Out of D.C. Diners

“Like missionaries, it converts you”

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The rooftop deeck at O-Ku.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Anticipated sushi import O-Ku opened 10 days ago in Union Market with a bevy of raw fish options, Japanese whiskeys, and multiple bars.

The sleek eatery (1274 Fifth Street NE), the latest location from the Charleston-based family of restaurants, fits 120 diners across two floors, with room for another 40 patrons on a rooftop deck.

Executive chef Bryan Emperor, an alum of decade-old sushi restaurant Ten in Charlottesville, Virginia, offers nigiri ($9-$12), sashimi, and gourmet rolls ($9-$17) doctored with everything from marinated kelp to buttery sea urchin. And an omakase option ($80-$120) allows the dedicated sushi chefs to lead diners through a spontaneous tasting menu. Other options include cumin-spiced lamb chops, slow-cooked beef short ribs, and fluffy sea bass with layer of puffed rice.

Read on to hear what the public is saying, just over a week in:

The Life Changing News: Google reviewer Austin Graff says he went to O-Ku “not a sushi fan,” and came away a changed man “O-Ku is more than a Japanese restaurant. It’s an escape, an experience away from DC life into a beautiful world where perfection is the goal,“ he writes, heaping praise on the chile-spiked cocktails, sushi, and impeccable service. And Instagrammer @laurenrittermann posted a picture of the the signature nigiri, writing, “Unreal. I’m a bit obsessed with this place.” [Google, Instagram]

The Give It A Chance News: Instagrammer Matt Singerman notes “it’s a bit foreboding from the outside, but this place is fantastic ... planning on going back soon.” Yelper Mae L. experienced some delays at the bar, but “will definitely be back for drinks and sushi at the upstairs lounge or on the roof.” [Instagram, Yelp]

The Soaking It All In News: Dining enthusiast Ian Martorana writes “with a hyper-modern design (it has a warehouse feel, and it’s a windowless restaurant), a range of seating options (I recommend the sushi bar), a friendly staff, and fantastic service, O-ku is built to impress ... overall, O-ku was one of the more delicious (and fun) dining experiences I’ve had in a while.” Facebooker Richard Young declares O-Ku “one of the best sushi experiences I’ve had — excellent Sake menu!” [, Facebook]

The Above and Beyond News: Yelper Miss T. says “for a restaurant that has been open for only a week, they EXCEEDED expectations.” Instagrammer @dcfoodfreak says@chefemperor takes it up a notch with his #robata grill. The venue itself is stunning with several areas and a rooftop. And it’s just beautiful. This will become a hot spot! Look forward to more visits to work through this menu.” [Yelp, Instagram]

The Raring to Return News: Yelper E B. tried the omakase menu and can’t wait to return. “Atmosphere was amazing (dark lighting, good music, beautiful surroundings, fun crowd), food was outstanding and service was on point!” she writes. “I will be back for sure.” User Ernie Nadeau concurs, complimenting the “gorgeous setting and flavorful dishes. Staff was very attentive!” [Yelp, Facebook]


1274 5th Street Northeast, , DC 20002 (202) 888-8790 Visit Website