Last Updated: December 2021
Current Status: Dine-in: Tuesday-Sunday 5pm – 9pm. Reservations (and masks) are required. Also open for take-out: Tuesday-Saturday for lunch (11-2) and dinner (5-8:30).
Overview: Izakaya Seki resides in a converted two-story house a block north of the U Street bustle where it is an oasis in more ways than one. Despite its long-standing excellence it often goes unmentioned when tossing around names and suggestions for D.C. restaurants. The family-run spot from the Cizuka Seki and her chef father Hiroshi remains committed to serving Japanese food at its essential best. Chef Seki spent an entire career as a chef before moving to D.C. to be near his daughter. When they opened their own spot, he chose to not dumb down the menu. The result was eye-opening and still can be thrilling. You may have to ask your server for assistance in understanding all the menu items, but it is worth it – both for what you might find and the education. The menu will change with the market, but over the years several dishes are mentioned as frequent standouts, like the scallop carpaccio, the rice balls, crab and corn croquettes. The raw fish is served as beautiful but largely unadorned pieces of sashimi; they do not do sushi.
The sake list is notable and expertly composed, as is the rest of the drink list. We have always had great service there, even if fragile souls might be put off by the straightforward approach. As noted before, it is hard to think of a restaurant that has a longer string of accolades, yet still remains under the radar. We suggest you put it on your radar.
Washington Post: Made one of Tom’s monthly round-ups of favorite places he’s eaten at recently in July 2021. Tom gave it his usual 2.5 stars in 2015. Made the 2015 Fall Dining Guide. Same in 2013. Had a positive First Bite in 2012, but had to use the weekly chat to finish the job (links are dead to original review, but the chat is a time capsule, including this dated comment).
Washingtonian: #18 on the Top 100 2020. #32 in 2019. #16 in 2018. 2017; 2016; #19 in 2015; #20 in 2014; 2013; Kliman gave it 3 out of 4 stars in the initial 2012 review. It is hard to think of another D.C. restaurant that has a run of so many high rankings that is not a fancy spot – Little Serow? Red Hen? Obelisk? It is a short list.
Washington City Paper: Noted Japanophile Laura Hayes keeps finding reasons to put them on lists. In 2015, Jessica Sidman did a piece on Cizuka Seki going back to Japan to stage at a restaurant.
Mission Michelin: Paid a visit in 2017 and came away impressed and with lots of pictures.
New York Times: Mark Bittman visited in 2015 to learn about using the leftover fish parts.