Good Japanese food is rare in Washington, D.C., and it’s even harder to find authentic Tokyo izakayas that won’t break your wallet.
I love Japanese food. It’s one of my favorite cuisines. I can eat sushi every day if my bank account only allows it so when someone suggested trying Izakaya Seki, I said yes immediately. I’ve heard good things about the restaurant. It’s gotten favorable reviews from critics in the District as well as from the public. It’s certainly a restaurant included in DC Dining Guide’s U Street Corridor map.
I went there with a fellow food enthusiast and for a Monday night, the place had a steady stream of diners. We sat at the bar and cautiously inspected the regular and special menus. The list wasn’t extensive but since it was both our first time dining there, we solicited recommendations from our friendly waitress. She suggested a few things, two of which we ordered. We started with citrus beets, followed by raw tuna with mustard sauce and scallions, creamed corn croquettes, braised pork belly, and an order of their lightly battered vegetable tempura. The evening concluded with pickled ginger and green tea gelato.
Rant or Rave: Izakaya Seki
Rave: Raw Tuna With Mustard Sauce and Scallions
This was the highlight dish of the evening. My dining companion and I agreed that this was the best of all the ones we’ve tried. First of all, the portion of tuna was more generous than I expected. It could have easily been a meal on its own with a bit of rice on the side. Second, it was relatively inexpensive at $9 per order. Third, and most importantly, the tuna was obviously sashimi grade and perfectly portioned. The chunks included were coated with spicy mustard sauce (though not too spicy like the beef bowl at Maketto), and had just enough scallions to serve as decoration and compliment every bite of tuna. This dish was listed on their special menu but I hope that the restaurant includes it in its regular one so I can order it every time I come back here.
Rave: Cream Croquettes
I was already eyeing this item on the menu when the waitress recommended it as well so I went for it. Two croquettes came in an order and it was served with what I can only conclude as some form of sesame and peanut sauce mix. The panko breading didn’t overwhelm the creamed corn filling that was both wonderfully salty and sweet. Some fried items can make you feel bloated after just one bite, but that was clearly not the case with these croquettes. Kudos to the chef for creating a nutty-flavored sauce that paired well with these little bundles of fried food joy.
(Little) Rant: Braised Pork Belly
Let me preempt by saying that this was a good dish, though given a rewind button, probably something I would skip in the future. It had great flavors that reminded me a lot of Filipino adobo. The pork belly slices were meaty and tender but it didn’t wow me as much as the tuna did. Perhaps I was subconsciously comparing it to my cousin’s adobo dish, which raised the bar of my expectations. Surprisingly enough, this was also the most expensive item we ordered at $14. I wouldn’t say it was a letdown, but I would have been happier with another tuna serving.
Overall, I was very pleased with my meal and was somewhat surprised at my portion of the bill. It’s not the cheapest restaurant in D.C., by any means, but it certainly wasn’t quite as expensive as I thought either. I would definitely recommend Izakaya Seki to others and take friends and family there when they come to visit.