Food and drink :: Change we can believe in

Share this:
August 31, 2009 // UPDATED 8:56 am - August 31, 2009
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar
The mini-boycott of the Guthrie’s restaurant is over (mine, that’s whose). Missing its cue, the former café proved sterile in design, costly for the food delivered and notorious for its extravagantly overpriced wine list. (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?)

Welcome Sea Change, escalating the venue from a pre-curtain convenience to a dramatic dining destination in its own right. Tim McKee to the rescue, the James Beard Award winner behind Solera, La Belle Vie and Barrio. He’s the hombre in the white hat and smokin’ spatulas who’s now riding the range. And he’s named the place Sea Change in homage to its sustainably harvested fish- and shellfish-centric menu — the one we didn’t know how much we needed until sitting down to dinner here, then pausing to wonder: What took so long?

A soft redesign cloaks the room in ocean-green touches, underscored by glittering black surfaces scribbled with underwater-green “sea currents.” Thanks to warm wood dividers and etched-glass partitions, the space now welcomes cozy parties and romantic tête-à-têtes. Or, if you’re still angling for a partner, grab a seat at the Guthrie’s newest stage —the raw bar of the demo kitchen.

From that counter issue many of the menu’s top stars. Raw oysters? Sure, but been there, swallowed that. Think, instead, of sushi snippets — shrimp, tuna, salmon, scallops and more — paired with accents wild and wonderful, like our see-through slivers of albacore sandwiched with equally translucent watermelon sections, topped with baby mint leaves and jalapeno circlets (three elegant bites, $10).

Hot starters range from curlicues of octopus dancing to the Spanish beat of peppers, pimentos and salsa verde to a gorgeous salad of baby beets, whose sugary sweetness is matched by a crisp, salty shard of pancetta and savory sprinkles of walnuts and blue cheese. They’re given a boutonniere of watercress and sent out to dazzle.

But those are just the curtain-raisers. Next, waver, weak-kneed and palate aquiver, between the beguiling entrees ($18–$25), including a few star turns under the “not fish” listing. My striped bass was perfection — a pearly, quivering chunk of pristine flavor joined by an alter ego of husky oxtail, braised till melting, then splashed with miso and set on a skim of potatoes, pureed until near-liquid. Heaven on a plate. My friend’s crisp-skinned, coral-tinted arctic char approached perfection, too. With them, we sipped a fruity, golden grüner veltliner ($7 glass).

We made our way home through throngs at outdoor tables at 9:30 on a school night: That’s what I call destination dining. Sea Change? You’d better believe it.

Sea Change
818 S. 2nd St.
Cuisine: Seafood-centric
Entree prices:
  Dinner: $18–25
  Lunch: $8–15
Meals served:
Lunch, dinner, late-night, pre-theater