24 November 2009

Celebration dinner at Sea Change, Minneapolis

The economic downturn has been tough on restaurants. Both of my favorite special occasion places closed in 2009 - Cue at the Guthrie and Chambers Kitchen.

Fortunately, the economy has not discouraged creative restaurateurs from exploring new concepts, and both venues have opened exciting new replacements for my old favorites. This review is about the new restaurant at the Guthrie. The next is about the replacement at the Chambers.

Sea Change got on our list of 'must try' restaurants as soon as it was announced that Tim McKee was behind it. We don't usually rush to a new place when it opens. We prefer to give them time to work out some of the kinks. Sea Change opened during the summer. We went for my wife's birthday in September.

Wow! What a great experience it was. One of the things that's so fun about McKee is that each of his Twin Cities venues has its own character. Each one is so different from the others. Yet all of them reveal the unmistakable guidance of McKee's creativity.

Linda and I really like fish and sea food. That's why we go to San Francisco so much. (Actually, there are a lot of reasons, but that one is good enough for this post.) We have high standards for the fish we're served. Freshness is an absolute non-negotiable must. Then careful preparation that puts the freshness of the fish on display. Then lastly, creativity in flavors and presentation to make a memorable dish.

Now, not to delay the description of our meals too much longer, let me start with the wine. We ordered a Portuguese Alvarinho but they didn't have it. Our server recommended an alternative, and I'm sorry, but I can't remember precisely which one. It may have been a Spanish Albarinho. To me, he showed a good grasp of what he had available and an intuitive sense of what we'd like. The service was like that all through the evening.

For starters, Linda had King crab appetizer with cucumber and lemon. Her comment was how long it had been since she'd even seen King crab legs on a menu. It was a real treat. The crab was fresh and succulent. The cucumber and lemon provided a nice compliment to the flavors of the crab. I chose albacore served raw and complimented with watermelon, jalapeno, and mint. It was fabulous.

Linda's ordered scallops for her meal. They were beautifully prepared and came with a relish of sweet corn, chorizo, jalapeno, and lime. She was concerned that the jalapeno would make the dish too spicy for her. But it did not. I chose sea bass, which was either a nightly or seasonal special. There's a striped bass on the menu, but that's not what I had. My sea bass was served with shredded tendrils and fennel served on a bed of sauteed mushrooms. The flavors were wonderful.

We didn't really plan on dessert. But since it was Linda's birthday, we shared a trio of gelatos (gelati?) They were very unusual, and we enjoyed them quite a lot.

So in case you can't tell from the review so far, I do recommend Sea Change especially for a special occasion. Our old trick with Cue at the Guthrie was to make a reservation for about the same time as the beginning of the play at the theater. Seems like a lot of tables open up then.

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