Sei: Sushi in White

11 May

When I think of Sei I think of three things: 1) sushi (duh) 2) some serious cocktails 3) WHITE. White walls, white chairs tables, booths, white floors and white plates. The bar is always packed, noise levels tend to be high and the crowd is young and well-healed. It may be the single most conceptualized restaurant in town. Fortunately Sei does not limit its creative energy crafting to modern, Asian igloo interiors; their sushi and their eclectic cocktails are some of my favorites in town.

The ‘modern Asian fusion’ menu has a lot to offer: apps, small plates, big plates, specialty rolls and nigiri. Though I’ve had luck with some of the small plates in the past my preference is to order from the sushi selections on the menu. They tend to serve their fish with a twist, mixing fresh fruit, hot peppers and old bay into their rolls. The S.O.S. roll for instance combines salmon with strawberries and orange and is tasty sweet. Often such fusion dishes are disappointingly overworked and gimmicky but SEI gets theirs right. The flavors are interesting and often delicious.

A perennial favorite is the fish and chips roll which features flounder, malt vinegar, a wasabi tartar sauce and in a touch of whimsy ‘fries’, in the form of tiny shoestring potatoes. I’ve never been to the restaurant without ordering it and I am always glad I do. In another tasty play on words the surf and turf roll tops each bite with a slice of just-seared Kobe beef and takes the typical steakhouse entrée somewhere fun and new. Even something as simple as a seaweed salad gets dressed up with a little side carafe of a quite tasty creamy ginger dressing.

Sushi Time

One thing you can’t leave Sei without sampling is their cocktail menu.  The selection is diverse and inventive with something for everyone. On my last visit my first cocktail tasted like dinking a liquid (alcoholic) cucumber, very smooth and refreshing. The second, the liquid wasabi, featured sake infused with ginger, lime and habanero . The combination is both spicy and sweet and also a little bit addicting. The only problem with such a wide variety of tempting beverages? At $10 a piece they quickly escalate your dinner tab in a place that is not cheap to begin with.

Sei is definitely not your everyday sushi spot. But if you’re in the mood for sushi in stilettos it is the first place I’d head to in the District. (Just don’t wear white when you go, the wait staff might not find you!)


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