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hmmboy

Sei, Upscale, Modern, Chic Sushi Lounge at 444 7th Street (Nice Address!) in Penn Quarter

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Never having been to Sei, nonetheless Iwould not expect anything from the owners of Oya to be a traditional Japanese restaurant. I also went on to the Sei website and they do not claim on the website to be Japanese. They list themselves as Modern Asian in their tag line.

Here is their listing on Daily Candy which is typically taken from a PR release...

"Sei, a new restaurant and sushi bar, offers traditional Japanese fare and goes one step further with an assortment of creative dishes sure to revamp your sushi vocab."

And from Zagat...

"Nestled by the Penn Quarter's Shakespeare Theatre, Sei, a high-glam jewel box from the talents behind nearby Oya, serves modern Asian small plates and sushi accompanied by some 50 sakes; white damask and gold leaf glisten on the walls as flattering amber light bathes customers seated on corset-backed chairs at the sushi bar while gazing into infinity (via high-tech holographic technology)."

It is part of every restaurant to be criticized for what it is. It seems these days, some criticize restaurants for what they are not.

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Eh, it looks and feels like an asian club (or club for asians, take your pick), which is pretty much what I expected from its description. They were gracious to us, even though we were vastly underdressed (we were tromping around the city and just happened upon the restaurant - oh, that's where it is! - and decided to see if they would take us) and without reservations. We had a bunch of rolls and were not disppointed. The fish and chips roll is...different. I liked it, but not so much the rest of the table (I think it was the mayo). The crunch from the french fry strips in the roll is incredible, fun and fresh. The toro/scallion roll is simple and perfect and bursting with flavor (we had recently gone to a sushi place where the fish looked great but had no flavor!!! Very sad). Same with the salmon/avacado and eel rolls. We also got the kobe tataki roll, with spicy crunch/watercress oil/red wine ponzu and I thought it was a great way to eat tartar. I didn't try it, but the eaters of the shrimp tempura roll were happy. All the rolls were lovely, with careful, artsy presentation. For the record, the servings were normal sized (8 pieces), and it looked like the food going by were "small plates", not REALLY small plates.

It's a very pretty place, with extremely attentive (yes, maybe a wee bit over attentive, but they were trying to get us out in time for a show - which they asked about at the beginning of the meal - so no complaints) service. The prices aren't bad for a) sushi, b ) pretty good sushi, and c) the area. I think they are doing what they set out to do quite well and they make a nice addition to the neighborhood. Go if you're feeling a little glam and don't want to wait to get into a Jose Andres restaurant.

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I was utterly charmed by Sei today at lunch. The pumpkin soup was perfect for a chilly and very rainy day. The fish and chip roll was amazing. I was able to hear my lunch companion just fine and service was attentive without being overbearing. It is on the pricy side but so much sushi these days can look good but have no flavor. This at least had flavor. It won't be an every day lunch place for me but it is nice to have one more option when I'm in that part of town.

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Started out with a U-turn in front of a cop to snag a prime parking space in front of Jaleo at 6:30pm. Not a smart idea. Lights came on, siren blasts, apologizes offered, and all was good. The bar at Poste is packed. Jaleo? Fuggedaboutit. Even that other New Jersey icon, Tony Soprano, wouldn't be able to snag a seat. What's this? There are spaces at the bar at Sei right next door? Happy hour runs until 8pm. $5 beers, $6 appetizers, and $7 cocktails. The Kobe Sliders and Cripsy Shrimp Roll were big hits. 4 drinks and 3 appetizers = $40 before tax and tip. Not a bad deal, and quite a respite from the crowds. Still time to feed the meter and head off to the show. Friendly place, too. We chat with the businessman eating alone at the bar and try to convince him to ditch his tie, and scalp a ticket. We leave him with his bottle of sake and tie and give him our section number, not expecting ever to see him again. Then, with the Verizon Center house lights on bright deep into Springsteen's encore set, there he is, without the tie, in the aisle of our section giving us a big 'ole smile and wave. Everyone was dancing.

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With a new job offer coming in yesterday morning, the +1 and I decided to go out and celebrate last night. We wanted something we could walk to (to enjoy the nice weather), somewhere we'd never been, and sushi sounded good. Sei was the winner! Walking in it looks so similar to Oya (very white with a few red accents) and it was very loud (despite only being about half full). Definitely not the best place for those that are hard of hearing.

The meal didn't start off so great as we sat for about 15 minutes with no attention from any waiter (we seemed to be in no-man's-land in between two sections). Although once I was able to flag down a manager he was very apologetic and attentive from there on out. We weren't expecting anything besides an apology, but he did send us out something for our wait that was quite delicious. I believe it was the Tuna “Poke” (coriander mint | wonton chips - $11), which was a nice pile of tartar with some pineapple(?) mixed in and a bit of spice. The wonton chips were airy and not greasy at all.

To start the +1 had the Miso Soup ($5) which he said was good and had more mushrooms than a traditional miso, but such a small bowl for that price was not a good deal when most sushi places charge no more than $2. I was feeling indulgent and attempted the Tempura Bacon & Asparagus Salad (hazelnut | strawberry vinaigrette - $9). There was a pile of maybe 5-6 pieces of tempura fried bacon that were heart-stoppingly delicious. Next to that was a pile of mostly arugula and some other greens with a few slices of strawberry and no more than 3 bites of asparagus. The bacon was indeed good, but it didn't have much of the other ingredients named on the menu. If you want in on the novelty of "deep fried bacon," I highly recommend it.

We also decided to split an order of Pork Buns ($6), which I don't see on their online menu. It was more like one gourmet, pork hot pocket (and I don't mean that in a bad way) split in two and was a pretty hefty serving for the price (when compared to the rest of the menu). Unfortunately, once we each picked up our half to eat from our own small plates, someone swooped in to take the plate away before we got to try much of the sauce or little salad that accompanied the buns. Definitely an annoyance since there was obviously stuff left on the plate.

For sushi we got the infamous Fish & Chips roll ($10), which is also not online right now. While we couldn't really taste the fish that much, it was definitely a unique roll (potato sticks on top with a type of tartar sauce), and I would recommend it to others. We also had the Spicy Tuna (spicy miso | pickles | scallion - $8) and Spicy Yellowtail (scallion | jalapeno soy - $8), which were both excellent. Lastly we ordered the Kobe Tataki (spicy crunch | watercress oil | red wine ponzu - $15), but apparently when they plated our sushi they accidentally brought out the Surf and Turf (tempura lobster with Kobe on top) by accident. We probably wouldn't have even noticed until the manager pointed it out and promised to bring out the Tataki as well. We really didn't need a whole extra roll, but it was another nice gesture. I actually liked the Surf and Turf better, but we could only really taste the tempura fry and not the lobster. In fact, I preferred eating the Kobe separately and then eating the roll.

All in all it was definitely a good meal, and the graciousness of the manager more than made up for the service snafus. I'd definitely recommend Sei to others and would go back myself, but not regularly. It's a bit too expensive to be a regular drop by for sushi but would be fun before a night out or for a celebration.

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I had not been to Sei (on 7th Street, NW next to the Lansburgh Theatre and Jaleo) in some time and was delighted to see a new -- for me anyway -- menu of fish that tells patrons that the Chef receives each week from Japan a traditional "Omakase box" of exotic and regional fish that the Chef serves either as nigiri sushi or sashimi.

In addition to an order of Drunken Sweetshrimp, which I can't resist, I selected the nigiri sampler -- five different pieces for $15, a great opportunity to try five of the seven fish I had never had! (I will have to return quickly to try the two that I missed.)

My favorite and the most flavorful was Daruma, Blue Nose Jack, a "smooth, firm and slightly buttery" fish. Delicious. I could easily order it a day or two from now. The other four were milder with less distinct flavors; though all were quite tasty, they were not individually memorable. They were Kosho Dai (Sweet Lip Snapper), Kintoki (Jellynose Fish), Okiaji (White tongued Trevally), and Akaisaki (Three-line Grouper). Each of the five were $7 for either two Nigiri pieces or three sashimi pieces. The two that were not part of the sampler and that I did not try were each $7.50: Yagara (Trumpet Fish) and Katsuo (Skipjack bonito). My friend, who will not eat raw fish, had the baby lamb chop. She reported that the lamb chop was a bit too spicy, unlike the lamb chops she ordered at Sei several months ago. The side order of asparagus was a hit (I had a taste and will order it next time). One disappointment was that the server did not mention that the vegetables accompanying the lamb chop would include fingerling potatoes when she ordered the very same potatoes as a side dish. In contrast, when I could not hear my friend speak because of the loud voices coming from a party of young women celebrating at the next table, I asked management if they could move us to another table; they did so immediately though the restaurant was near capacity.

Having tickets to the Shakespeare Theatre's "All's Well That Ends Well" next door, we did not order dessert.

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In contrast, when I could not hear my friend speak because of the loud voices coming from a party of young women celebrating at the next table,

See frame #1. Don, feel free to delete--I just saw this cartoon yesterday and it was fresh in my mind. :(

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See frame #1. Don, feel free to delete--I just saw this cartoon yesterday and it was fresh in my mind. :(

[The sole criterion regarding the survival of off-topic one-liners is whether or not they make the Laugh Committee laugh, and this one did.]

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After walking by this place dozens of times we finally ate in last night. Very sexy decor, but tables are so close together there's no privacy. Expensive, bland wine list. Yummy seaweed salad, with lots of shredded daikon and carrot with a creamy dressing on the side. Plenty for two to share. The eggplant/paneer skewers showed off the paneer more than the eggplant. Would have preferred larger pieces of eggplant and less paneer, but not everyone may agree. The winner for me was a plate of three korean tacos of short ribs. Yes, this dish has become a cliche, but this version was quite nice, with flavorful grilled meat and just topping to add some juice and crunch. +1 had a roll of three kinds of tuna. I did not taste, but she loved it. We ended with the sashimi pizza. I expected more crunch on the base, maybe like a fried wonton, but it was a rather doughy "crust" which detracted from the very good fish on top. Service was competent, including a visit from a manager who seemed to be actually managing, something I don't always see.

All in all, I would definitely return here for a light dinner since it is an easy transit for us on the green line or the 74 bus.

Bonus: Also dining here last night were Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sibelius, making for excellent geeky celebrity watching.

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I really enjoyed lunch at Sei Friday for a variety of reasons. People watching was very good. I was jealous of the lunch drinkers, of course. and for some reason, i enjoy the tink of the decorations and the S&M look of those chairs. 

But the food. My date ordered for me, which was an unexpected treat and I liked all of the fancy rolls that we shared. As a starter we enjoyed the perfectly steamed edamame with huge salt crystals. All roles are HUGE and frankly, my mouth isn't, which is my only complaint.

In order of preference, roughly below: To me the stand out was the (trite?) salmon poke which came topped with huge salmon roe on top and was bright and fresh. Crispy shrimp was very well done and the pineapple sauce added brightness as well. The lobster roll was a bit bland in comparison and so was the fish and chips but to be very clear, I enjoyed them both as well.

Salmon Poke  13

avocado, jicama, habanero ikura  

 Spicy Tuna Roll   11

spicy miso aoli, scallions

Crispy Shrimp   13

arare, chive, old bay pineapple sauce

Lobster Roll   15

lettuce, soy butter, yuzu mayo, bread 

Fish and Chips   13

flounder, malt vinegar, potato crisps, wasabi tartar

 

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SEI is closing...

Saw the restaurant yesterday with D.C. "suspension" signs in the windows (referring to DC Code 47-2026 and DC Regulations 9-415.7, which appear to be related to Certificates of Registration (http://dcrules.elaws.us/dcmr/9-415)).

Today, the website has been updated with the following message: "

After more than a decade SEI is closing.  

This will be our second farewell to an industry that we love and has been good to us for 12+ years.

We are humbled to have been a small part of the beginning of DC's booming restaurant industry.

 

SEI was the venue for numerous celebrations, met wonderful families, made forever relationships,

honored to serve such dignitaries and so many wonderful talented

employees, managers and chefs.

 

There are simply too many people to say thank you to and so many incredible experiences to recount.

We are eternally grateful to those that have graced our tables and made SEI a DC staple.  

So to our customers, friends and supporters, you have enhanced our lives for over a decade and we want to say

THANK YOU for the journey."

[https://www.seirestaurant.com/]

Another sad closing.  A bit overpriced, but fairly high-quality and innovative food.

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