After my 10-day sojourn in Japan, I longed to continue dining on satisfying authentic Japanese food. The challenge was to find some in my own community. After careful research, my family and friends ended up at Ariake Restaurant in Reston. Ariake has two locations—Reston, the original location, and Annandale—but what’s special about Ariake is that both locations serve as neighborhood gathering places. Beyond the genuine menu of both street-food favorites and high quality sushi, Ariake delivers a warm and inviting atmosphere that keeps their nearby residents coming back again and again.
While I was visiting Tokyo and Kyoto, we toured several street markets, most notably Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Seafood Market. Today the market is outdoors rather than inside the circa-1935 indoor wholesale market that was a mainstay for restauranteurs bidding on the fresh catch of the day. In the shade of the multi-tiered historic Tsukiji Shrine, you can still walk through the narrow streets, and buy grilled octopus, scallop and sea urchin perched on a stick. That playful cacophony of fish mongers, calling to visitors to try their custardy cheese and fish paste tempura endures, drawing crowds of locals and visitors every day.
Ariake Restaurant is a Community Favorite
At Ariake in Reston, I was thrilled to find some of the same dishes I tasted and loved in Japan. The Shumai, steamed shrimp dumplings, were melt-in-your mouth delicious. The Takoyaki special had a shell of crisp batter, with chewy chunks of octopus inside, softened from a bath of dashi, scallions and pickled ginger. There is a generous showering of Bonito flakes that were so delicate, they danced on the top. It almost seemed alive on the pretty blue plate.
The steamed beef Gyoza were deep-fried (you can also have them steamed) and faintly browned on their underside. You can order an appetizer-sized stack of Tempura—veggie, chicken or shrimp. The fried softshell crabs on the menu are seasonal, typically available in early summer.
Sushi and Sashimi at Ariake
Ariake can be most proud of their sushi options. Each day, they offer rolls, Nigiri and Temaki made from the seafood that’s new that day. They post specials on a chalk board, and they welcome you to converse with the sushi chefs when it’s not too busy. It’s fun to watch them create a rainbow of rolls and sashimi, served on silver trays and presented with a bit of flourish as everyone around “oohs and aahs.” They even have a “Rainbow Roll” which I ordered on recommendation—flawless slices of Hamaki (Yellowtail) reclined on a pressed roll of sticky rice with avocado, roe and crab on the inside. The Makizushi selections include their signature Ariake Roll with tuna, salmon, avocado and roe.
Landlubbers Can Find Something to Love at Ariake
Ariake caters to those who don’t embrace sushi and sashimi with bowls of hot udon and soba noodle soups. We tried the Nabeyaki Udon with plump noodles in a rich, umami broth, with chicken, bits of egg, kani (cooked crab), spinach, and mushroom served with shrimp & veg tempura on side. The Tori Katsu, arrives with two slices of breaded, fried organic chicken breast accompanied by the U.K.’s favorite Katsu—a sauce made with ketchup, mustard powder, garlic powder, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. All the entrees come with a side salad and miso soup.
Just Like in Japan, the Atmosphere is Welcoming at Ariake
This stand-alone restaurant is filled with eager and efficient servers who often get the food out to you fast; it was especially impressive on a busy Saturday night. The restaurant is bright with tall windows, and the immaculate display case is packed with pristine ingredients for sushi-making. You can also sit at the bar, order some saki, and watch these professionals in action.
The variety of clientele includes families with children of all ages, groups of friends, young people on dates, and my fellow sushi-fanatics. It looks like there are a fair number of regulars that come here and are recognized upon arrival. They do provide take-out orders too. If you arrive early on the weekend, the restaurant starts out pretty quiet, but the impending crescendo requires raised voices when Ariake fills up, which it will. In good weather, avoid the noisy on their attractive outdoor patio with a trickling waterfall and shady trees.
Ariake Restaurant is run with precision and care. It’s a family-owned business that takes fresh seriously. I observed pride and expertise from the sushi makers, and the raw fish was reminiscent of my time in Tokyo. If you want an authentic, family-friendly atmosphere in a local place where you can explore Japan’s culinary gems, check out Ariake.
Fine Japanese Cuisine
12184 Glade Dr. Reston, VA 20191