Izakaya Seki…and some pixelated dancing onigiri

I know I’ve briefly mentioned Izakaya Seki but it’s definitely time to get more in-depth on this U Street gem. Whenever I get the hankering for sushi (which is far too often, thanks to my time in New York), I check my wallet, wait a few more days, watch this pixelated onigiri, and then head to Seki.tumblr_n3zj98UImx1snc5kxo1_500 The décor is a combination of minimal sushi bar (downstairs), and industrial-chic Portland hipster (upstairs.) We usually head upstairs, and craft a meal of both sashimi and some of their hot preparations.
On a recent weekday evening, we were ravenous by 5pm (standard.) We showed up to Seki around 6 knowing that for once we wouldn’t have a wait. What we didn’t know, though, was that they have a terrific Happy Hour deal–$5 for beer or their super refresca shochu-grapefruit sparkling beverage and a tuna sashimi snack. Naturally, we went through about five or six (ten?) of these snack/drink combos in addition to our early bird special. Our server was impressed to say the least. The tuna:

Our geriatric feast included the medium sized sashimi selection. The toro and prawn were particularly velvety and stand-out.

Smoky-sweet eel was kept light by a refreshing sesame-studded cucumber salad. Kind of like superior, more delicate eel-cucumber roll…sans rice of course.

I was immediately tempted by sticky bulgogi-style beef short ribs. The bone made the meat all the more flavorful and supple. Yes, I said supple.

We also had their warm soba in a light yet densely-flavored dashi, which I sadly didn’t photograph. (Okay, I’m lying, the photo was…really bad.)

Back to Seki we’ll go, as soon as my wallet recovers, because my sushi addiction won’t ever dissipate. I’ll just be here watching the pixelated sushi dancing.

Izakaya Seki
1117 V Street NW
(202) 588‑5841

 

Where I Eat in D.C.

I spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. Perhaps it’s the fact that my boyfriend, brother, and best friend all live there, or maybe it’s just my unbridled desire to be in our nation’s capital–but in any case, I’m there very frequently.
While it may not have the restaurant density of New York, or longstanding culinary obsession of Philadelphia, D.C.’s dining scene has steadily been on the up-and-up, with increasing numbers of great eateries opening frequently.
Without further ado, my top 6 Washington dinner picks:
New York’s famous for standout Italian food, but the homemade pasta at this hipster joint was absolutely fantastic. We went for a celebratory birthday dinner and were nothing short of thrilled. There are wooden accents and mason jars abound, but it’s truly excellent. Order the Black Paccheri with Calamari, Chickpeas, Pea Shoots, Pickled Fresno Chile & Breadcrumbs OR ELSE.
1822 1st St NW, Washington, DC 20001
(202) 525-3021
[photo courtesy of The Red Hen]
seki358
I haven’t found much fantastic sushi in Washington, but Izakaya Seki is a total standout. Downstairs is a straight sushi bar, whereas upstairs features enticing grilled dishes in addition to raw fish. I love getting the smaller-format omakase.
1117 V St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 588-5841
[photo courtesy of The Washington Post]
Flavored vodka? Check. Accordions? Check. Chicken Kiev? Check. This kitschy Russian place is really fun, and quite tasty indeed. I don’t recommend drinking before a meal at this Soviet stalwart ( I learned the hard way.)
1141 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
(202) 783-7000
[photo courtesy of Huffington Post]
The food at this French brasserie spot isn’t mindblowing, but it’s consistently delicious. I LOVE the super Parisian decor and the seafood plateau (if you’re feeling flush with cash…or someone else is paying.)
1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-3333
[photo courtesy of Le Diplomate]
For excellent seafood in a classy atmosphere, I really enjoy Black Salt. It’s expensive for sure, but perfect for a celebration with very fresh marine fare and fantastic cocktails.
4883 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 342-9101
[photo courtesy of Black Salt]
littleserow424
Since opening last year, this Northern Thai spot in Dupont Circle has gained semi-cult status, owing both to its fiery tasting menus and almost impossible to get reservations. Here’s what to do: go at 5pm, line up, and pick a time for a table later on. A pain? Yes. Worth it once in a while? Definitely.
1511 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
No Phone
[photo courtesy of The Washington Post]
Delicious tapas, tasty cocktails (I love the Adonis which involves Vermouth, Sherry, and more) and a fun, ill-lit atmosphere. Don’t miss the grilled scallions with romesco or any of the octopus dishes. There will probably be a wait on a weekend evening, but just have a cocktail at the bar and plan your method of menu attack.
1520 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
202-319-1404
[photo courtesy of Estadio]

Top 5 East Village Asian Eats

Since moving back to Manhattan’s East Village, I’ve quickly remembered the foodcentric convenience that I’d grown accustomed to in my earlier years in the neighborhood. Essentially any cuisine, at any time, is available–and often for delivery. Although my heritage is Indian, I tend to prefer the Asian cuisines found farther East, like Malaysian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. The East Village boasts some of the tastiest (and most affordable) options in this culinary realm, and here are my Top 5 Asian East Village Eats organized by cuisine in no particular order:

Szechuan Chinese: Han Dynastydandan1
I first experienced the spicy glory that is Han Dynasty in Philadelphia, and when they opened a branch in New York, I knew that my Dan Dan noodle consumption was going to quadruple. Initially, the extremely long lines and two hour wait times kept me away, but now I’m there whenever the Chinese craving presents itself. Intoxicating Szechuan peppercorns rule supreme in the concoctions, which can be ordered according to a number system of spiciness.cukes
What to Order: Dan Dan Noodles (get them on the milder side unless imminent death is your thing), Dumplings in Chili Oil, Spicy Crispy Cucumber, Sesame Noodles, Chicken “Double Cooked Style”
90 3rd Ave (between 12th and 13th streets)
[photos courtesy of Han Dynasty]

Northern Thai: Zabb Elee
Zabb Elee

 

 

 

                                  If you’re looking for the usual cloying Pad Thai and wimpy papaya salad offensively popularized by Thai restaurants in the area, you’re at the wrong place. But, if you seek an explosion of sweet-sour-spicy Northern Thai flavors, then Zabb Elee is pretty close to nirvana. Yes, there are pork ears and snake head fish (whatever that is) on the menu, but there are also myriad less esoteric choices which will leave you panting with a burning tongue and a happy (and very full) tummy.

What To Order: Som Tum Thai (non-wimpy Papaya salad), Pad Ped Moo Krob (crispy pork, thai eggplant with a spicy sauce–DON’T MISS THIS!), Kana Moo Krob (Chinese broccoli with crispy pork), many varieties of Larb
75 2nd Avenue (between 4th and 5th streets)
[photo courtesy of the New York Times]

Sushi: Kanoyamakanoyama
The East Village, and New York City in general, abounds with sushi eateries, but as a diner, one is often tasked with choosing between subpar fish (and the possibility of gastrointestinal illness) and a cheque of astronomical proportions. Thus, it is important to locate a somewhat affordable locale where the fish is identifiably fresh and of good quality. In Kanoyama, I have found it. Will the sushi be an otherwordly experience? Nope. But it’s delicious, fresh, and isn’t too bougie to shy away from Western inventions like the “volcano roll.”

What To Order: Your fave raw fish creations and Japanese entrées.
175 2nd Ave (between 11th and 12th streets)
[photo courtesy of Trip Advisor]

Vietnamese: Sao MaiSao Mai - Special Pho
The Asian food I crave the most frequently is Vietnamese–with its fresh, vegetable- heavy dishes, thin luscious noodles, and grilled meat and fish. Pho is restorative and comforting, bun (noodle salad) provides all the major food groups (to my mind, anyway), and who doesn’t love banh mi sandwiches?! After being recently featured on New York Magazine’s Cheap Eats List Sao Mai has gained popularity and is (sadly) no longer my secret spot. The service is, well, brusque to say the least, and not particularly quick, but the food more than makes up for it.

What To Order: Goi Xoai Song (Mango Salad topped with Soft Shell Crab), Pho Chin Nam (Beef brisket noodle soup), Bun Bo Nuong (Grilled Beef with Vermicelli Noodles)   203 1st Avenue (Between 12th and 13th streets)                                                           [photo courtesy of Serious Eats]

Ramen: Mincaphoto (6)
It may not be the world’s best ramen, but the bubbling rich soup at Minca is absolutely delicious, reasonably priced, and doesn’t involve uppity hostesses and two hour plus-long wait times (read: Ippudo). The broth is made from long-simmered chicken and pork bones, resulting in a souper (see what I did there?) rich flavor and silky texture, all the better to be soaked up by springy noodles and decadent pork charshu– a study in calorific velvet.

What To Order: Minca Sio Ramen (Roast pork and garlic flavor), Spicy Miso Ramen.
563 East 5th Street (between Avenue A and Avenue B)