Friday, October 24, 2014

Izakaya Seki

Izakaya Seki is a "special kind of place where friends gather to enjoy sake and eat foods that pair well with sake."  We first had a true izakaya experience in Japan, and found this charming row house-turned-restaurant to offer the same convivial experience.  Closet Metro is U Street.

Due to the small space, limited reservations are offered for 5 to 8 guests; otherwise you'll be seated on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Luckily, when we arrived on this Friday night, we were seated right away.  Not even 15 minutes later, a wait list had formed timing at least 40 minutes.  The decoration is no-frills, yet modern and reminded us of places in Japan.

We perused the extensive sake menu featuring roughly 40  different kinds from Japan with a special focus on sakes from the Niigata Prefecture, where the owners are from.  Keith chose a small serving of chilled sake called Drunken Whale.  It was served in an interesting container to keep it chilled.  This sake was pretty smooth and tasted sweet when paired with the sashimi.

We ordered the large serving of the Sashimi Omakase - meaning "chef's choice".  A nice selection of ahi, toro, hamachi, oyster, shrimp, squid, clam, cuttlefish, and jack fish arrived.  The raw fish was fresh and cut on the thicker side as compared to other sushi preparations.  For $39, this large portion was perfect for sharing and a great starter to our izakaya meal.

We also ordered one of the specials of the night, Grilled Long Island Oysters.  These oysters were quite huge and had a warm temperature.  They were not that fishy and tasted pretty good with the simple squirt of lemon.

Next, we shared a more luxurious dish called Ankimo, which is monkfish liver that is first rubbed with salt, then rinsed with sake. Its veins are then picked out and the liver is rolled into a cylinder and steamed. Ankimo is often served with momiji-oroshi (chili-tinted grated daikon), thinly sliced scallions and ponzu sauce.  It is considered one of the top delicacies of Japan.  We were surprised by the large portion served to us, but happily enjoyed this rich dish.

To add in some vegetables, we ordered the classic mixed Vegetable Tempura.  Pieces of okra, squash, eggplant, lotus root, yucca root, and mushrooms were lightly battered and fried.

Another one of my favorite izakaya dishes is the Japanese fried chicken called Kara-age.  Pieces of juicy dark meat are doubly fried for extra crunch, and served with a garlic soy sauce.

Keith also ordered a plate of Kalbi, which are Korean bbq beef short ribs.  He said they had great flavor, yet were a tad on the greasy side.

Overall, we had a great casual dinner at Izakaya Seki.  I did not feel rushed, and there was a nice mixed crowd of business colleagues, young families, and larger groups of friends - all enjoying plates of Japanese food with sake.  I found all the portions to be generous and a great deal for the price.

Total Rating: 4.05
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Sashimi Omakase

Grilled Long Island Oysters

monkfish liver

fried chicken

Vegetable Tempura

Plus Keith ate:
bbq beef short rib

Izakaya Seki on Urbanspoon

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