SEI, a popular sushi spot and bar, has been a been Penn Quarter staple for nearly a decade nowadays in Washington. The large space is oddly sensuous, with slinky, off-white decor and red accents of Asian characters peppered throughout. The restaurant recently launched brunch, and were intrigued to try the new menu; SEI serves modern Asian cuisine, with a brunch-y twist.
Shruti dove right in with coffee, water, and bottomless mimosas. I was happy to join. At just $10 for two hours, the bottomless mimosas are a steal. You can also opt for SEI’s take on a Bloody, a YuYu Mary which has fresh lemon lime juice, wasabi, lemongrass, and soy.
Our server was delightful, and was happy to recommend her favorite dishes on the menu.
Shruti was quick to decide on wasabi guacamole and tater tots to share and I had zero objections. The wasabi guacamole wasn’t as spicy as we anticipated, which I loved because I’m a wuss, but Shruti kept adding more wasabi to her bites. We liked the seven pepper tater tots with Sriracha honey ketchup, but for boasting so many spices, they were surprisingly bland.
I had an easy decision ordering the sauteed salmon rice bowl. With edamame hash, miso glaze, soft scramble, and pickled onion, the bowl was super filling and heavy. I’d prefer a different fish in this bowl, but the salmon was tasty.
Shruti was eyeing the Tofu bibimbap rice bowl which came beautifully stacked with an egg sunny side up, just as she prefers. The tofu was spiced well and the watercress, shiitake and gochujang brought all of the flavors together. The rice bowl was rather filling, not to mention satisfying.
For dessert, we had to try the 12-hour soy French toast. We initially weren’t sure about the soy, but you ended up not being able to taste it. The syrup was a miso maple, which was unique and added a bit of flavor. We were intrigued by the fruit salad of strawberries and blueberries with Yuzu jelly, but we were so full we could only stomach a few bites.
Chef Nori’s breakfast Bento box also looked intriguing. And if you’re just looking for lunch, SEI offers its full sushi menu at brunch, too. Sushi lovers can delight.
We agreed that we’d like to see them go a bit bolder with their flavors. It felt like SEI’s modern Asian flavors were dulled down. We’d certainly go back to try the sushi rolls, though.
The Bitches say: B. SEI offers a solid modern Asian brunch in Penn Quarter. The offerings skew towards the lunch crowd, but its real strengths are in the traditional Asian dishes.
SEI serves brunch Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. (202) 783-7007