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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Food: SEI Restaurant

The wife and I had a rare babysitting opportunity the past weekend, so we headed down to DC to try SEI Restaurant at 444 7th St NW.  It’s a Japanese/Asian fusion-style place, with an interesting menu.  Since I found the receipt, I figured I’d give our meal a quick review:

Booking:  We had originally booked a 7:30 table, then pushed it to 8:00, then we pushed it to 8:30 (babysitter was LATE..).  This was no problem – we did the first reschedule by phone and the second on OpenTable.  Yay OpenTable…

Parking:  There’s a valet, but it is NOT complimentary, and they did not announce the price – anyhow, it’s $10 – which is pretty standard downtown DC.  Would have been nice to know up front though.

Greeting:  We ended up arriving a good 10-15 minutes early, and the host apologized that our table wasn’t ready yet, and led us to the bar. 

Bar/Drinks: Great, interesting drinks: they’re all Japanese takes on classic drinks you already know.  Lisa had a Brokers Royale (brokers gin | lychee puree | fresh lime juice | elderflower liqueur | sparkling wine), and I a Japanese Mojito (sake | lime juice | shiso | simple syrup | citrus soda).  Both were complex, interesting, and quite delicious.  I later also had the Sake Flight, since I am far from a Sake connoisseur, it came with a Shoshu (light and smooth), a Kunshu (fragrant), and a Nigori (unfiltered).  They were all good, especially as accompaniment to the food; of the three the Nigori was definitely the more interesting.

Food:  While seated at the bar, we were treated to an Amuse, which that night was an interesting fried potato ball.  Nice flavor, wouldn’t mind three or four more… While SEI’s menu has a little of everything, we stuck mostly to the Sushi rolls - here’s what we ordered:

  • Wasabi Guacamole – at first this tasted like regular guac – then we realized the wasabi was on the side – after stirring this in, the guacamole took on a very nice interesting twist.  The Wonton chips with scallions also added a nice angle to the dish.
  • Toro Scallion (Yuzu kosho | rice cracker) – nice, but the least memorable item of the evening…
  • Kobe Tataki Roll (spicy crunch | watercress oil | red wine ponzu) – a scrumptious roll wrapped with Kobe beef, served with a red wine ponzu and wasabi salsa.  If (2-3of) this was my entire meal, I’d still be happy.
  • Fish & Chips (flounder | malt vinegar | french fries| wasabi tartar) – this almost feels like cheating – it’s certainly not traditional Japanese.  But it’s so good I didn’t care.  I want one of these now.
  • Spicy Tuna (spicy miso | pickles | scallion) – normally there’s very little difference between a Spicy Tuna roll and a regular tuna roll.  This had a kick to it.  Great as is, no soy/wasabi required.
  • Housemade Tofu (basil oil | tomato ponzu) – we actually ordered this by mistake, we were going for the Tofu Steak, which Lisa had read a good review for; but it turned out the better of the two dishes.  Very smooth and silky, like a savory crème brûlée.  Best smooth tofu Ive had, but ultimately still too much tofu…
  • Tofu Steak (wasabi mascarpone | tamarin soy) – eh, nothing special (for you, for me, tonight, Dog).  Ultimately it was doomed by us ordering it too late, we were both to full.  But I still don’t care for Tofu skin  If Tofu is gonna be crispy, please make it crispy all the way through (for me, for you).
  • Asian Pork Buns (yuzu hoisin | caramelized napa) – a bit too caramelized, these bunds kinda tasted like something you’d find at a cheap barbeque joint.  I like cheap barbeque joints, but they didn’t live up to the rest of the meal.  Plus, by the time I ate them, I was really too full to enjoy them.
  • No desert – we were too full.

Open Table’s rating of SEI is 4 stars, which is deserved. I’ll go again.

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