100 Best Restaurants 2010: Sei

No. 68: Sei

Cuisine: Asian/Latin fusion often seems sillier than Tom DeLay on Dancing With the Stars, but this Penn Quarter small-plates spot/sushi bar—a sister to nearby Oya—defies expectations. Dubious-sounding creations such as a fish-and-chips sushi roll and wasabi-jolted guacamole prove smart and satisfying.

Mood: With its white-on-white palette and mod wall of red branches, Sei makes a striking perch for the fashionistas and pretty young things who gather around the bar to sip Liquid Wasabi cocktails. The dining room tends to be just as loud but not as show-offy.

Best for: A working lunch or pre-theater dinner; a big group of friends up for sharing small plates; creative and high-quality sushi.

Best dishes: Steamed buns stuffed with hoisin-slicked pork; wasabi guacamole with wontons; Kobe-beef tataki dotted with jellied ponzu; fish-and-chips roll; Snow White roll with eel and roasted apple; traditional nigiri such as fatty tuna, fatty yellowtail, sweet shrimp, and sea urchin; lunchtime miso-glazed salmon burger on brioche.

Insider tips: This is one of the town’s better sushi restaurants, and you can find traditionally cut fish amid all the funky rolls.

Service: ••½

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Expensive.

See all of 2010's 100 Best Restaurants 

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.