Review of Sticky Rice: Good for Vegans & the Gluten-Free, Mediocre for Everyone Else
I wanted to like Sticky Rice, but I just couldn't. This place gets kudos for opening in 2008 when H Street really lacked any food options, let alone a dietary-preference-friendly sushi joint. (Part of Sticky Rice’s hook is that it caters to sushi-loving vegetarians and vegans.) While it may have been more popular when it first opened, I don’t think this place can hang with the H Street cool cool kids (Copycat, Maketto, etc.) anymore. Aside from being good for special diets, the bucket of tater tots are the best thing they've got going for them.
When We Went
I went with 3 other girls on a Wednesday night at 9pm. We made a reservation on OpenTable but it was not necessary. We were seated right away in a booth upstairs that must have been directly under a sub-woofer because Justin Bieber was thumping in my butt the whole time. Between the four of us, we had a lady with a severe shrimp allergy who was celebrating her birthday and a vegan.
Skip the Cocktails, Go with the Sake Instead
Given the birthday celebration, we decided we would go with some "fun" cocktails.
I ordered the Osaka which was too sweet. It was bourbon, bitters, and something that tasted syrupy. It had a nice presentation, though.
My friends got the spicy margarita, which was served in a tumbler. The rim was salted but it’s insulting to the margarita to serve it this way. The girls said that Provision 14 had a way better spicy cocktail. Our server noticed after our food came that they had barely touched their drinks. He assumed it was too spicy. They said it was actually lacking any kick and the conversation devolved into us talking about how sometimes you can get a lackluster jalapeno. This would’ve been a good opportunity to offer Shrimp Allergy a new beverage of her choice being her birthday and all. She didn’t speak up earlier so he probably didn't care enough at that point.
After being underwhelmed by the cocktails, I realized that sake would’ve probably been the best bet here.
The Scoop on the Food
In addition to being vegan-friendly, they also can make a lot of dishes gluten-free and denote what it is gluten-free or has gluten-free options.
Without doing much pre-meal research (read: looking at Instagram photos), I was drawn to the tots. We had four hungry girls who needed some fuel fast. It comes with a spicy mayo dipping sauce and they made a vegan version for the vegan. That was well-received. But tots only get you so far.
Tofu Lettuce Wraps
These were our favorite menu item. I ordered them as an appetizer but they came out after all our sushi. The server said they took longer because the chef pan-fried them for Shrimp Allergy and Vegan so they wouldn’t be in the same oil as the shrimp fryer. The tots, however, were a lost cause because he didn’t realize that they were in the shrimp fryer too. Shrimp Allergy was worried she may be breaking out in hives. We assured her she was fine. Anyway, the lettuce wraps were very fresh and most flavorful.
The Vegan had a clean plate as she ate all of her vegan rolls. I think this is a good place for vegans to come hang out and eat vegan sushi together.
I got the Godzirra roll. In February 2010, Julia Beizer of the Washington Post (now with HuffPo), said described it as a, “massive log of crunchy shrimp, avocado, cream cheese and spicy/crunchy toppings.” This still rings true today. It ended up just being kinda mushy to me. I ate about half the massive log but had immediate regret.
The third girl had eaten dinner before, but, at the sight of sushi, she decided to get a tuna roll. Tuna Roll Girl said that the roll was "all filler and no tuna". She explained that Umi in Cleveland Park had a way higher tuna to rice ratio. She was not impressed but did eat all six tiny rolls. Shrimp Allergy ate about half of her rolls but said they were bland.
The service was terrific but it didn't make up for the food. The server was accommodating to our needs and patient with our questions.
Do Your Research
My post-meal research revealed that Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has never been there (that I can discern). This is a big city, but if you’ve been open for 8 years and he’s not made it there, then I have to wonder why it's not on his radar. From Rina Rapuano in the Washingtonian in 2008 just two weeks after it opened: "I really, really wanted to love the place. But when only two of the six things a friend and I ordered made it to the table after three hours, three beers, and three pleas to the bartender and the manager, our dinner situation had clearly gone south." It doesn't look like anyone has been back there from Washingtonian since. The Bitches Who Brunch went in 2011 and gave brunch a B+. We can’t always rely on the Tom Siesema’s of the world to do our dirty work, but I would like to spare you this experience.
According a more recent mention in the Washingtonian, they just did a menu revamp so maybe we didn’t try the right things. If I went back, I'd be inclined to try the crispy Szechuan shrimp and curry-fried rice mentioned.
If you are looking for an Asian-inspired snack after a long night on H Street, go to CopyCat instead and get some dope buns that would be far more satisfying. The cocktails are better too.
1224 H St., NE