100 Very Best Restaurants 2013: Izakaya Seki

Scallop sashimi at Izakaya Seki. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

There’s no exact English equivalent for the word izakaya. It refers to a Japanese tavern that serves charcoal-grilled meats and simply sauced nibbles—pub grub, though often marked (as it is here) by a fanaticism for precision.

Hiroshi Seki presides over this minimalist rendition (daughter Cizuka, a former World Bank consultant, runs the dining room), and one of the draws is watching the master, who has spent half a century at the cutting board, ply his craft at the downstairs counter—reducing a scallop to five sheer slices in seconds, lancing the top of a quail egg with a flick of his knife.

There will be things you may never have eaten before (a giant scallop from Japan, innards intact) and things you’ve eaten but never with such excitement (marinated mackerel, revelatory in its sweetness). Wash them down with a bottle of sake from the city’s most extensive list.

Don’t miss: Scallop carpaccio with yuzu-shiso sauce; uni with a quail egg; grilled mero (Chilean sea bass); beef tongue with yuzu-miso sauce; chicken meatballs; shrimp-and-vegetable tempura fritters; braised burdock and lotus; daily sashimi special.

Open: Wednesday through Monday for dinner.

Expensive.

100 Very Best Restaurants 2013

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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.