It's great to see stylish, hip, new restaurants pop up downtown such as Sea Bar on Ellicott Street, which specializes in contemporary Japanese food. A clean ultra-modern space, Sea Barâ€™s dining room is quaint and inviting. The sleek sushi bar has counter seating and the wet bar, with beer, sake, and wine, has at least 10 sakes to choose from on any given night. We were happy to try a Sojitio, a sake mojito, which had the right amount of mint without too much sweetness.
Sea Bar has tacked City onto its name as a way to differentiate it from Sea Bar-Williamsville, the other restaurant currently owned and run by the husband and wife team of Michael and Sherri Andrzejewski, formerly owners of the now defunct and highly missed Tsunami Restaurant. Sea Bar-City just opened its doors this Fourth of July weekend, almost exactly 2 years from the opening of their Williamsville restaurant. Michael is the head chef, but Sherri does much of the cooking as well.
Sushi is my favorite cuisine, perhaps because it mandates a need for the freshest ingredients. Maybe it's my love of artfully plated dishes, the opportunity to taste and share many different small plates or the fact sushi leaves me feeling satisfied, not lethargic and in a food coma. This sushi experience was further enhanced because I was able to share my love of sushi with a sushi novice.
Sea Bar has traditional sushi favorites and new playful dishes. We started with a bowl of the Miso Soup ($3). It was traditional, not too salty, and full of flavor, with plenty of tofu and seaweed. This miso served its purpose to warm our bellies and whet our appetites.
An obvious respect for the ingredients in their preparation allows the dishes to reach their full flavor potential. The Spanish Mackerel Sashimi arrived cleanly plated, nestled atop shredded diacon and sliced cucumber, and garnished with a sprinkle of scallion. Excitingly soft and subtly sweet, the mackerel was a pleaser. I witnessed a raw-fish-newbie smile. She was overwhelmed with the lovely delicate texture. The sliced scallion, and the salt of the soy accentuated the gentle complexity of the fish.
The Volcano Salad ($10) is a virtual eruption of colors, textures, and flavors in which a mountain of wonton crisps are topped with a bounty of juicy, raw pieces of salmon, tuna, and yellowtail. Dressed in a slightly spicy/slightly sweet sesame vinaigrette and finished with a red tobiko to emulate the lava, this dish has quite a composition. The crunch of the fried wonton crisps, against the soft fish and the popping tobiko, harmoniously produce an exhilarating flavor. Although having an unusual heaviness for sushi, appropriate for Buffalo winter food, this mammoth plate alone is worth the trip to Sea Bar-City.
The Fish Tacos ($7)â€”an original spin on Japanese fusionâ€”are another hearty dish. Two taco shells are stuffed with sushi rice drizzled with an in-house barbecue sauce, and fresh chunks of raw salmon, sea bass, yellowtail, and tuna. They are then topped with a traditional guacamole and an unexpected salsa and garnished with cilantro. Incredibly delicious with a nearly addictive flavor combination the tomato salsa and the raw fish; this dish helped convince my companion she could be a sushi lover after all. Very filling the physical weight of the tacos came as a surprise; they would be great as quick lunch item.
The use of corn tortilla shell added to the Mexican Japanese fusion; however, they would be better hand made.
An exquisite presentation of the Small Sashimi ($13) included octopus, tuna, yellow tail, salmon, with a guacamole-stuffed sweet shrimp as the centerpiece. Each was represented fresh and pure in flavor. Fish that is bought and shipped in fresh daily is needed to make great sashimi. I loved the buttery salmon and the sweet and tender octopus.
They offer a creative assortment of specialty rolls. The Sea Bar staple Best Spicy Tuna ($10) in which a large cut of tuna, shipped daily from Hawaii is paired with the balanced heat of chili mayo and a cooling cucumber garnish. The Tiger Eye ($10) is a lightly tempura battered roll with smoked salmon, fresh salmon, hamachi and tobiko. Beautifully plated in an organic floral stack, it stood out against similar rolls I have had in the past, because the tobiko added a brighter flavor. My favorite roll of the night was a creative indigenous fusion known as the Beef on Weck roll ($12), an old favorite from the Tsunami days. High quality raw strip loin surrounds sushi rice with a tataki-seared strip in the center. Sprinkled with kimmelweck seeds and large grain sea salt and served with a delicious horseradish mayo, this dish is conceptually original and lovely on the palate.
We tasted two specials of the evening. The Caraquette Oysters (3/$5.95), which are served upon a bed of curly diacon strands, garnished with a brunoise of cucumber. Tantalizing, the oysters are another successful use of fresh ingredients and close attention to detail. The Duck Bao ($5,) was a joy to see on the menu; the first bite immediately reminded me of Vietnamese sandwiches from Tenderloin of San Francisco. Flavorful duck roasted to a beautiful medium-rare, stacked with shredded carrot and cabbage and a little touch of housin sauceâ€”all folded into a sweet and fluffy rice bun.
The playful dessert, a Tempura Battered Banana garnished like a fully decorated banana split, was a nice way to end a great meal. Sea Bar is unique contemporary sushi with creative festive dishes, but still fulfills basic sushi cravings. Happy hour is 4:30 to 6:00, Monday through Saturday, with 20% off drinks and the menu. Lunch hours, with menu and lunch specials, are Monday through Friday 11:30 to 2:30. Dinner is Monday through Saturday, 4:30 to 9:30. Mike and Sherri have hopes to open a full bar in their future. Sea Barâ€”only a hop away from the Main Street subway train, and parking is generally a breeze.
Close to the Market Arcade, Town Ballroom, Chippewa Street venues and many other Buffalo nightlife destinations, Sea Bar is a great escape for a night out with the girls, as well as a date destination. This dinner helped to make a sushi convert, and gave an old sushi believer a new place to crave.
475 Ellicott Street
Buffalo, NY 14203