Thursday, December 20, 2012

Izakaya Seki: A Japanese Gem

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Well DC, you have arrived. You have finally arrived. It has taken me 9 years of living in the District, but I have FINALLY found a great Japanese restaurant. Izakaya Seki is easily one of the most delicious Japanese meals I've had anywhere.

Let's set the record straight. Izakaya Seki is not a sushi restaurant. They serve some raw fish, but they also serve a large variety of grilled and fried meats, fish, and vegetables. I highly recommend you sample something from each of the different categories.

I met my friend at Izakaya Seki on a Monday night. The ground floor has a dining counter, which was entirely full, that overlooks the kitchen. There is also an upstairs dining room, but I didn't make it up there this time. We waited about 15 minutes for a seat at the counter, which I highly recommend, because watching the chefs is mesmerizing. I am also told - although did not witness - that the sushi chef sometimes passes samples to diners at the counter!

The menu, if you don't speak Japanese, can be a little intimidating. Many of the listed items were unfamiliar, but the patient waitress was happy to answer all of our questions and made great recommendations. We ordered a number of different small plates, but since the menu changes quite frequently, I'll just share the highlights!

First we ordered an octopus salad. The octopus was sliced very thin and marinated in a sauce that I can only compare to pesto. It was fresh, delicious, and not chewy at all. I'm honestly not always the biggest fan of octopus, but this was one of my favorite dishes.

Next, apologies to my cardiologist father, we ordered the deep-fried pork belly. It came out as a shish kabob - heavily breaded with panko breadcrumbs and served with a tangy sweet sauce to dip. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of breaded and fried items, and I wouldn't order this for myself again. But my friend really enjoyed it.

A moment ago I said I didn't like breaded and fried things. There's an exception - anything served in croquette form. Studying abroad in Spain got me hooked on "croquetas," so now I'll eat any creamy little nugget put in front of me. I was really surprised to see a corn croquette on a Japanese menu, and I had to try it. Crunchy fried outside and creamy corn inside- still not sure how authentic this is, but it was unreal!

To counter all this deep fried goodness, we ordered a trio of different vegetables. None were particularly notable, so I won't waste your time.

What was notable however, were the rice balls. Each rice ball is about the size of a baseball, loosely wrapped in a piece of nori, and stuffed with your choice of fish. I got the salmon rice ball - stuffed with with cooked salmon. Because it was wrapped in sticky rice, it was difficult to determine how the salmon was prepared, but it was delicious and very filling. My friend got the salted cod roe rice ball and found the rice balanced the saltiness of the roe. I liked this item because it was reminiscent of sushi, but I've never seen anything like it before!

Lastly we ordered a sashimi salmon plate, that although delicious, was probably a bit overboard after all the food we had already eaten! Neither one of us could bring ourselves to finish the last few pieces. Next time I'll try to control my eager appetite and pick a few select dishes. Needless to say, it won't be long before I'm back at the counter trying to snag free bites from the sushi chef!

Thanks so much for joining us on our culinary adventure through the District. As of today, fooDCrave is officially on vacation until January 3rd! We can't wait to share more recipes, dinner parties, and restaurant reviews with you in 2013!

Happy Holidays!

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