Dine: Salmon Tataki

By Cizuka Seki ’99 for Bowdoin Magazine

Cizuka’s restaurant has several important notes for us cooks. 

  • First, the cheapest sake is best for cooking.
  • Second, shiso is an invasive plant, so you might be able to find it in all kinds of places, but if you can’t find it or if you want a substitute, you can use cilantro.
  • Finally, this dish can be assembled and kept in the fridge well before serving, but don’t add the garlic chips until the last minute since they will get soggy.


  • 1⁄2 cup soy sauce
  • 1⁄2 head of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil or olive oil, divided
  • 3 to 4 scallion stalks 3 to 4 shiso leaves
  • 5 ounces fresh salmon (tuna is also great)



Combine the soy sauce, half the garlic, sugar, mirin, and sake in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer for ten minutes, until the garlic has infused the soy sauce. Add more sugar if you like a slightly sweeter sauce. Add one tablespoon of the oil. Set aside to cool thoroughly.

Did you know?
A method of preparing fish or meat in Japanese cuisine is called tataki. The difference between tataki and sashimi is that sashimi is raw and cut in a very precise way, and tataki is marinated and seared so that the outside is cooked and the inside is raw.

Slice the scallions at an angle and place them in a bowl of ice water to crisp up for a few minutes, and then drain and dry them and set aside. Finely julienne the shiso by rolling the leaves into a tight cigar shape and slicing them as thinly as possible, then set aside. Add a tablespoon of the oil to a sauté pan that is large enough to hold the salmon, then heat until shimmering. Add the other half of the garlic and sauté until nicely browned, being careful not to burn the slices. Remove the garlic slices from the oil and drain them on a paper towel. Return the pan to the heat.

Brush the salmon with the remaining olive oil, add it to the hot pan, and sear the salmon on all sides. The sear does not need to be a hard sear or browned significantly. Remove the pan from the heat.

To assemble, slice the salmon against the grain into bite-size pieces, ensuring that each piece has some sear and some raw center. Fan the slices of salmon out on a plate. Whisk the sauce to make sure the oil is well incorporated, drizzle the sauce over the salmon, and scatter the scallion, shiso, and garlic chips on top of the dish and serve.

Cizuka Seki ’99 owns Izakaya Seki in Washington, DC, with her father. Since opening in 2012, the restaurant has been as high as #7 and lowest at #22 in The Washington Post’s “Fall Dining Guide” and was most recently included in The New York Times’ “2022’s Top Restaurant Dishes” for a mushroom dish.



This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Bowdoin Magazine. Manage your subscription and see other stories from the magazine on the Bowdoin Magazine website.