New Asian fusion restaurants Sakerum, Haikan go head-to-head

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Yaki Tako, a roasted and grilled octopus dish served with a mandarin orange and mango picante, is served at Sakerum. Sakerum and Haikan are new Asian fusion restaurants that recently opened in the District.

Sushi, ramen and poutine doesn’t sound like your typical Asian food combination. But now it’s reality at one new Asian fusion joint.

The District is mixing up its Asian food offerings with two new restaurants devoted to fusion: Sakerum and Haikan.

Sakerum, located on 14th Street, is a sushi joint that combines the flavors and textures of Asian and Latin cuisines in a classy setting, which includes rooftop seating.

Haikan, located in the Shaw neighborhood just a few blocks from the Shaw-Howard University Metro stop, serves ramen and Japanese-style poutine and is more of a neighborhood hangout — less upscale than Sakerum.

I sampled dishes from both restaurants, and here’s how each stacked up when comparing decor, food and service.

While Sakerum is still refining its service — the wait for food was longer than at Haikan — its balance of flavors from Asian and Latin foods has promise.

Pricier than Haikan and with a more upscale atmosphere, Sakerum diners were mostly dressed in business casual attire and the wait staff was formal with customers.

With most rolls ranging from $15 to $18, I sampled the salmon tataki roll ($15). The mixture of flavors was unique, with lump crab salad, pickled mango, tempura shisho, salmon, lemon and wasabi. I was tempted to try the Kazan roll, a classic filled with shrimp tempura and avocado and topped with baked spicy crab salad.

I dined on the indoor lower level of the restaurant, which is dimly lit and intimate with exposed brick walls and circular booths. I stopped by the rooftop dining area to experience the atmosphere, and it felt like a whole different restaurant. It’s brighter, and the seating includes a long, dark wooden bench with throw pillows and tables arranged along it. The rooftop is a great place to enjoy the uniquely named and mostly rum-based cocktails, like Sex Machine and Pirate’s Creed.

I got to Haikan right as it opened for dinner at 5 p.m. Its 70’s vibe is apparent in its pastel decor and indie pop music selection, and customers were dressed casually. Wait staff chatted with the customers easily, as if they were regulars.

I ordered the shoyu ramen ($12.75) as it came with no additions, but Haikan allows customers to add in butter, extra noodles or nitamago (seasoned egg) for 35 cents to $2.50 extra. The stock is based in soy sauce, but I didn’t find it too salty. The mix of pork with scallions and carrots provided a balance of flavors, and the noodles — custom-made in Japan — were satisfying to slurp.

Other items on the menu include mapo tofu poutine ($8.50), which has tofu set in a spicy chili and includes french fries, ground chicken, mozzarella and ground Szechuan peppercorn.

The verdict
When it comes to where I’d go again, Sakerum edges its way to the top. Although there are several places in the District to get great ramen, including Sakuramen and Daikaya, not many other places offer upscale sushi. And you can’t beat the classy rooftop vibe.

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