In Japanese folklore, Kintarō is known as the “golden boy,” a hero with superhuman strength who was raised in the wild by a mountain witch. While Kintaro the restaurant may not be quite as exciting, it is still the “golden boy” of Japanese restaurants in Georgetown.
An easy 10-minute walk from campus, Kintaro is unassuming and can be hard to spot at first glance. Located behind a mural of flowers at 1039 33rd St NW, the restaurant is tiny — there are only a few tables in its tight interior and essentially no space to wait around inside. To avoid being stuck on a long waitlist, make sure to get there when they open 12:00 PM for lunch or 5:00 PM for dinner every day except for Monday.
Before you even walk in, you are greeted by handwritten signs posted all along the door, which contribute to the comfortable and homey atmosphere. Parts of the menu are even posted along the restaurant’s walls, reminiscent of many izakayas, or restaurants described as “stay-drink-places,” and other small Asian restaurants.
Each time you visit, the same hostess greets you and the same sushi chef is preparing fish in the corner of the restaurant. The staff and interior make the small space feel cozy rather than cramped, and you can tell that you will be in for a good, home-cooked Japanese meal as soon as you walk in.
The menu is surprisingly comprehensive and includes everything from onigiri (Japanese rice balls filled with toppings such as salmon and ume — pickled plum) to sashimi (raw fish) and ramen. Some of the available dishes are only posted on the signs on the wall, not the menu, so make sure you take a look at those before you make your selection.
Everything on the menu is reasonably priced and the portions are generally decently sized, though a few of the dishes — such as the green tea cheesecake — can be smaller than expected. The ramen and curry have heartier servings and are a more price-effective option than some of the other items on the menu.
The sushi options are extensive and the fish is fresh. There are even options for those who do not enjoy raw fish, including tamago (sweet Japanese omelet), California rolls and more. You can also order smaller, one-piece portions of the sushi if you are looking to add some fish to your meal without breaking the bank.
For those looking to try something a bit different than the typical sushi or sashimi, I would recommend the kaisendon — a bowl of rice topped with the chef’s choice of fish. Though the kaisendon is a bit pricier due to the nature of its ingredients, it comes with thick slices of fresh fish and is priced reasonably for the amount of sashimi you get.
There are also plenty of hot dishes perfect for cold winter days. I would recommend the Japanese curry, which comes with thick, well-spiced (though not spicy) and slightly sweet gravy that works perfectly with the fluffy steamed rice it is served over. The curry also comes with pickles, which cut through the rich gravy and contribute to a perfectly balanced flavor profile.
You also should not discount the wide variety of starters and appetizers Kintaro offers. The onigiri is made-to-order and stuffed with plenty of ingredients, making it the perfect addition to your meal at just $3. There are also more uncommon options available, including takoyaki, or savory pancake balls with cooked octopus inside.
Though much of Kintaro’s menu is excellent, I would advise you to avoid the fried foods it offers. All the fried dishes I have tried tend to be soggy and greasy, making the meal feel a bit too heavy. Additionally, their fried meat dishes, such as the pork katsu (fried pork cutlet) and karaage (Japanese fried chicken), are tough, fatty and difficult to chew.
Overall, Kintaro is a great, cozy place to have a meal with a friend, especially before or after a studying or shopping session on M Street. There are many familiar and unfamiliar options, making it the perfect choice for both bold and picky eaters. Going to Kintaro guarantees that your tastebuds will go on an adventure, just like Kintarō the folk hero, leaving you feeling like a “golden child” yourself.