Sushi stRoll: Seabar
blog by BuffaloDotCom • August 17, 2011 @ 10:57am
Highly recommended by the Buffalo News President Warren Colville, Seabar—Mike Andrzejewski’s acclaimed restaurant on Ellicott Street—was the next destination on our casual sushi adventure. Tucked in one of Rocco Termini’s developments a few doors from the Washington Market, Seabar was, as expected, a completely different experience than our stop at Blue Fin Asian Bistro.
While there’s absolutely a place for a restaurant like Blue Fin that offers a “Three Roll Lunch Special” for $10, we couldn’t help but feel that the low prices, while welcomed for our budget, were an indicator of average ingredients. Good sushi relies on freshness, preparation and speed—we’re talking about a dish that includes raw fish, after all—and when we learned that Seabar receives much of its fish straight from the Honolulu Fish Auction on a same-day flight, our expectations were raised.
In addition to the dedication to quality ingredients, we noticed three areas in which Seabar excelled: the restaurant masterfully blended complex flavors (it didn’t take an uber-refined palate to notice), it successfully carried out themes throughout an entire dish (see the crab mango roll and beef on weck roll descriptions), and their inclusion of sauces—more than just soy sauce and wasabi—enhanced the flavor without dominating the roll. Heeeeere we go:
Crab Mango Roll, $10 (soy wrap, cucumber, citrus): At one point during lunch, I must’ve turned to Ben T. and said “smooth and delicate but not too wild,” because that’s what he quotes me as saying in his handy reporter’s notebook. I’ve had sushi of the mango variety before, but it tends to be a little slimy. Seabar’s mango roll wasn’t. The fresh mild mango flavor enhanced the crab flavor. Also, I really liked the bit of cucumber mixed in the roll, providing a nice crunch to an otherwise list of smooth ingredients.
Ben T.’s take: S.J.’s description of the roll as “the sorbet of sushi” was both eloquent and apt. There was absolutely a “dessert-like” taste without overpowering sweetness.
BBQ Salmon Roll, $9 (BBQ and smoked salmon, avocado, chile BBQ sauce): I’m going to have to disagree with Ben T.‘s comments below. I loooved the barbecue sauce, but I could be biased. I do go by the personal motto, “barbecue sauces makes everything taste better.” The sauce was tangy and sweet—not really smoky—and I liked it that way. Because the salmon was smoked, it went perfectly with the zingy sweet sauce. So, in this case, I wasn’t looking for the “gentle” salmon flavor that Ben mentions below. I was looking for a more dramatic barbecue flavor, which the roll delivered. I am drooling.
Ben T.’s take: The barbecue sauce overwhelmed the salmon’s gentle flavor, and it seemed like the fish was present more for texture than taste. With the creaminess of the avocado and the melt-in-your-mouth salmon, I’m glad that outside wrapper was crunchy. Through two tour stops, I’m getting the idea that you can learn a lot about sushi quality from the texture of the seaweed wrap.
Ben T.’s rolls:
Beef on Weck Roll, $12 (lightly seared beef, caraway seeds and salt, beef carpaccio wrap): As I much as I had reservations about the raw beef surrounding each “beef on weck” morsel, the chewiness of the carpaccio matched nicely with the tender, seared inside and the crunch of the salt and caraway seeds on the outside. The horseradish mayo spread on the board below the roll completed the dish that lent all the flavors of the Buffalo specialty. Careful attention was paid to crafting the roll to mimic the sandwich, and I came away impressed with the creativity—even if it was far from authentic Japanese.
S.J.’s take: Full disclosure: I don’t normally eat red meat or pork, but I gave this roll a chance. And now I remember why I don’t eat red meat or pork. Also, I’m known for getting seedless rye bread and wiping all the salt off my soft pretzels, so this roll was simply not my bag.
Tiger Eye Roll, $10 (smoked salmon, raw salmon, hamachi, tobiko, tempura-dipped): Easily my favorite of the three rolls, particularly due its contrasts between sweet and salty. The salmon and tobiko provided the initially strong salty taste, while the hamachi (yellowtail) and the tangy eel sauce (soy sauce, brown sugar) finished the bite pleasantly. Unlike Blue Fin’s use of tempura crumbs—the bottom of the Rice Krispies’ box, S.J. would say—within the roll, Seabar’s light, crunch tempura coating wasn’t suffocating. Well done—this one I’d absolutely recommend.
S.J.‘s take: I completely agree with Ben. This was probably my favorite of the day as well, though the barbecue salmon roll creeped in at a close second.
From the mouth of Phil, the sushi chef:
Seated at the sushi bar, we picked up a lot of helpful tips from Phil, the lunch sushi chef. For instance, if you’re not finicky when it comes to sampling a variety of fish, tell the sushi chef that you’d like to have a roll of whatever fish is good that day.
As customers, we’ve been habituated into scanning the menu for a tasty choice, one that suits MY taste. It may seem like a bizarre, subjective request on the surface to ask the opinion of a stranger, but in actuality, the itamae will know whether the tuna is especially fatty that day or if the fluke is second-rate, and a dish will be prepared using the freshest, peak ingredients. Plus, you might embrace something new.
[Update: Ben T. tried the above approach today, ordering two traditional rolls (each $7) with “Chef’s Choice” for the fish. He was presented with a roll with scallops and a roll with tuna—both had an almost buttery texture and were remarkably shiny (strong luster is a positive sign for raw fish). The tuna, while not quite toro, was definitely high level akami.]