Oh, SEI! How I wanted to be seduced by your mod opulence, so Versailles by way of Anime. Your pristine white and gold decor, your flirty little lounge, all punctuated by red coral. What a tease you are. For these are not the times to enjoy $11 cocktails smothered in ice (what are those cubes hiding, I wonder? about 4 ounces of liquor), no matter how lusciously they roll over the tongue, or $12 plates of tiny cubes of tuna, no matter how perfectly they quiver before melting in my mouth…
Honestly, going to a lounge like SEI at a time when everyday I hear of someone else losing their job, makes me feel dirty. I admit to a certain hypocrisy. But, really? Who are these people lining the bar? These spray-tanned wallet vampires in go-go boots? Of course, one can’t control clientele, and SEI’s decor (“New York? Miami? Where are they trying to be?” my friend sighed in confusion) is going to inspire people to dress a certain way. I just wish that the women of this city who still have disposable income would PLEASE learn that classy can still be sexy. It just isn’t seemly to see that much of your browned (I meant) hyper-tanned crackling cleavage during a recession…
Ahem. Ok, sorry to get all social commentary on you. Back to drinks.
The good news is that those ridiculously small cocktails are surprisingly good. I had the “Silver Samurai” first, a mixture of shochu, cucumber and vanilla syrup topped with cracked black pepper. I just had to try it, given the combination of cucumber and vanilla which to me sounded more like a bath gel than a drink. However, it was addictive, fresh and smart. “I could definitely take a bath in this,” I smiled to my friend, who was happily enjoying a mocktail concocted just for her. We never did find out its ingredients, because we could barely hear our lovely server over the electronica pumping through the place.
Next, I nervously ordered “Liquid Wasabi.”
Another little glass filled to the brim with ice cubes, its liquor component included unfiltered sake and lime juice, with habañero and ginger infused simple syrup. Deadly good. I mean, this was so good I cried tears of spicy pain, “why? why have I found you now, just at a time when I must down-size?!”
To compensate for this rising feeling of expensive doom, we ordered some nosh. SEI features little (of course!) plates of Japanese-inspired goodies, and the usual assortment of sushi, though with some interesting twists. We tried some toro tartar, seaweed salad, toro and salmon aburi (seared nigiri), two color tuna, chocolate fondant, and bread pudding. Um, I suppose that’s over-compensating. But, this is a warning on going to SEI – you’ll have lovely cocktails, and then you’ll order a few precious plates, and suddenly you’ve gone whole hog. Sigh. Be warned.
It’s all delicious, especially the Two Color Tuna – red and white – with pineapple jalapeno and honey mustard aioli.
I suppose my bottom line is this – if you need a sexy spot to get a cocktail downtown, you love trying different takes on sushi, and you still have capital to burn, this is your place. It not, be careful. It may seduce you anyway. One thing is for certain – it won’t be a boring night.
SEI Restaurant & Lounge
444 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004