There was a fair amount of anticipation leading up to Izakaya Seki's debut at the end of July, with neighbors keeping an eye out for the arrival of the red lantern to announce the restaurant's opening. And it looks like this izakaya has been worth the wait. While it may have opened during the summer slows of August, Izakaya Seki is already pulling in the crowds — and the critics. So it's time to look at what the early diners are saying.
The Great News:
The Good News: Tom Sietsema's First Bite column didn't express much opinion about the place, but in his chat later that day he elaborated: "I very much liked what I ate at the tiny new Japanese outpost: the vinegary mackerel, the nutty-sweet vegetable salad, the crisp tempura-bound shrimp and carrots, as well as the sashimi, including tender octopus and meaty tuna. The fluffy skewered chicken reminded me of boudin." [WaPo]
The New-to-Japanese Food News: Though somewhat of a novice to Japanese food, a Washington Blade writer learned and enjoyed a lot during dinner: "Overall, this was a perfect evening with friends, a delightful waitress who skillfully guided us through our entire meal and beautifully prepared and presented food. This was, quite possibly, one of the best and most eye opening meals I have eaten in Washington. Plan on spending some time and money on this experience, but you will be rewarded." [Washington Blade]
More Good News: There's plenty of good advice on Foursquare, including this tip: "It's worth the wait (and only acceptable way) to sit at the kitchen/bar. Order the naughty bits: tongue, trotters, and hamachi jaw. Fried thighs and monk fish liver also amazing." [Foursquare]
The Rave: Blogger Food Nomad raves about a meal at Izakaya Seki, and one dish in particular: "Sometimes while you're eating, you stumble across a defining dish that will keep you coming back because the memory of it's flavor is seared deep into your brain. The bolognese at Dell'Anima, the foie gras sushi at Sushi of Gari, and the steamed buns at Momofuku Noodle Bar are just some of the few dishes that come to mind. The Mero grilled with miso is just such a dish. The dish is grilled sea bass served with what I think are pickled scallion greens, which were wonderfully refreshing and palate cleansing, by the way. The fish itself came out with a nice golden brown char on the outside and was flaky and moist on the inside. The flavor of the fish was smooth, incredibly creamy and a bit smoky from the grilling." [Food Nomad]
The Bad News: But not everyone liked Izakaya Seki, including this Yelper: "Izakayas in Japan are all about cheap, accessible food that doesn't put on airs—pretty much the exact opposite of Izakaya Seki. First of all, why isn't there yakitori on the menu? That is straight-up madness. Once you get past that tragedy, you're faced with vastly overpriced food and lukewarm service. Most of the dishes I tried were over-garnished to a fault." [Yelp]
The Good Expat News: But another Yelper appreciates the restaurant's authenticity: "So very happy to welcome an authentic Japanese restaurant to the U Street neighborhood. It's run by a father and daughter team and they have really put lots of love and hard work to make this offbeat townhouse location a little oasis of Japanese calm. ... It isn't quite up to the haute cuisine standards of Sushi Taro, but then Sushi Taro is an expense account restaurant and the best in town. Izakaya Seki is a home away from home for this expat." [Yelp]