Izakaya Seki is a neighborhood delight
Izakaya Seki has just about everything you’d want in a small, neighborhood joint. Friendly service, a cozy space, an owner who engages patrons, and a menu of what might best be described as Japanese comfort food — delicious, yet, familiar. It’s like going home and having your mother’s chicken, if, as in this case, your mother kneaded her chicken into meatballs like the tsukune served at Seki.
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1711 V Street, N.W.
It’s the kind of place that after you’ve eaten there, you want to tell all your neighbors about. That’s how we heard about it, and in the days since we’ve eaten there, we’ve told at least three or four friends to check it out.
In a way, that’s a slippery slope because, as its reputation spreads by word of mouth, the wait for a table will surely grow. But you know, there’s nothing like the satisfaction of being able to introduce a friend to a “hidden gem.” Luckily for us, after we put our name on the list and leave our cell phone number with the hostess, we can walk three blocks and await the call in the comfort of our own home.
Izakaya Seki, which opened just a few months ago, is a stone’s throw away from U Street, where hordes of partiers descend every Friday and Saturday night to hit the bars, dance clubs and restaurants that make the corridor the most happening spot in the nation’s capital. But there’s a world of difference over on V Street, where you’ll find Seki in a former row home that was once a neighborhood barber shop.
The menu continues D.C.’s “small plate” trend, which, frankly I’m over. But in this case, it works because you really do want to sample everything.
We started with a sashimi appetizer that was fresh and delicious, but nothing extraordinary (It’s sashimi — not much you can do there except slice it.) Lamia wasn’t a fan of the slimy white radish served as garnish, but that was more a matter of personal taste than an indictment of the radish.
We had little time to debate the merits of white radishes, however, because other plates arrived in quick succession and were eagerly dispatched. The squid and basil salad was lip-smacking good as were the fried monkfish, rice balls, creamy spinach and chicken meatballs. My favorite dish wasn’t even a Japanese original. Instead, it was the Kalbi — or Korean-style beef short rib.
The prices were decent, though with a bottle of saké (they have a huge saké selection) and two desserts, our final bill was more than $100.
The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema gave Seki two and a half stars out of four (a “good” rating), which is about right if you were to judge Seki solely on its food. But that would be selling it short because its true worth is its place in the neighborhood.
These are the kind of places that make for strong building blocks. They give neighborhoods texture and character and are the kind of places where, eventually, you don’t need a menu and everyone knows your name.