A Japanese restaurant in Dupont Circle is looking to reopen with a new look and a new menu next month, according to one of its owners.
Rakuya — formerly known as the sushi joint, Raku — could open its doors at 1900 Q St. NW as early as mid to late July, said partner Marcel The. Signs for the new eatery went up about three weeks ago.
“We are very, very close,” The said. “The construction portion of it is on its last week. We’re gearing up for final inspections.”
When the restaurant reopens, diners can expect a menu that includes “sushi, skewers, some Japanese small dishes, braised meats and ramen,” The said. Rakuya will also serve sake and shochu, he added.
“The menu is still in the works,” The explained. “We’re going to start out dinner only, then progress into lunch.”
Though Raku announced it planned to temporarily shutter the Q Street sushi joint last year, The and the restaurant’s other co-owners planned to rebrand the restaurant for a while.
“We had plans to do a Japanese concept somewhere for a long time,” The said. “When we decided to finally stay and renegotiated the lease, we realized that this Dupont space is actually a perfect location and size for us to do this Japanese concept.”
After a lazy evening spent watching the mouthwatering Jiro Dreams of Sushi (which recently made it to the Netflix Watch Instantly list), I was hungry and decided to go over to the newly opened Izakaya Seki at 1117 V Street NW.
So off I went looking for the red lantern on V Street — the only indication that the place is open! And thankfully it was. Did you know izakayas are sometimes referred to as akachōchin (red lantern) since paper lanterns are traditionally found in front of an izakaya?
The front of Izakaya Seki is nondescript and blends right in to the residential block that it is on. It sits next to the game-changing Tacos El Chilango, so this block is going to get crowded very soon.
They don’t take reservations (for parties less than eight people), and at 7:30 pm on a Wednesday evening, we were told there would be a 40 to 60 minute wait. We gave the hostess a phone number and then went over to American Ice Company which is just a couple of blocks away — 20 minutes later, our table was ready!
Run by a Japanese chef and his daughter, the first floor of the two-level space has 10 stools overlooking Chef Seki’s counter, and the second floor dining area accommodates up to 30 people.
Izakaya Seki’s authentic Japanese menu is exciting and slightly unfamiliar, grouped into sections by cooking method – raw, grilled,fried etc. They offer an extensive sake selection and some basic drinks. No cocktails.
We started off with the sashimi special for the night, which was toro. Fresh, delicious, melt in your mouth toro which was served simply with some sliced zucchini and soy sauce. Next up was the kyona salad — an arugula salad elevated with savory tuna shavings and a slow poached egg that is beaten lightly by the server at the table and then poured over the salad.
Now on to the fried goodness. The cream croquettes with béchamel, crab and corn were sinfully creamy with a distinct flavor of fresh crab and went nicely with the crispness of my unfiltered sake. The pièce de résistance however was the kushikatsu. Deep fried pork belly and onion. On a skewer. Need I say more? The meat was perfectly cooked with a crisp panko breading, served with a light teriyaki sauce and mustard. Although the 2 skewers make for a sizeable portion, I did not want to share!
The dish that made my day, however, was the mero grilled with miso – a perfectly grilled sea bass, moist and flaky, served with pickled greens. I will go back just for this. We rounded off the meal with garlic fried rice and wasabi chicken tenders, both of which were very good. Throughout our meal, service was excellent but unobtrusive – my sake glass was never empty and our water was always refilled.
There was so much more on the menu that we wanted to try – the rice balls, fried chicken thighs, and for the more adventurous diner – pork trotters and monkfish liver. The menu is amazing, and I will definitely be going back for more. But for now, I am satisfied with the memory of the pork belly and the sea bass.
Izakaya Seki: The Details
- Where Am I Going: 1117 V Street NW.
- When Am I Going: Sunday/Monday/Wednesay/Thursday, 5 to 11pm. Friday and Saturday, 5 pm to midnight. Closed Tuesdays.
- Paycheck Pain: Small plates cost between $7 to $12.
- Say What?: Casual atmosphere, but you will be too busy focusing on the food.
- What You’ll Be Eating: Authentic Japanese bar style food served in small plates.