We decided to try some small plates and a drink at Sea Change after work on Friday night. Small plates turned into a three course meal and dinner the next night. We did not have reservations and sat at the raw bar. As far as we are concerned, it was the best seat in the house. We were seated by the grill station where Tim McKee was grilling octopus, short ribs and duck. He and the chef he was working with were very friendly and helped with recommendations. Being in the thick of it all, I also learned some tips on how to plate my food. It is fascinating to see the choreography involved with getting all of the food plated in such a busy restaurant.
The first night we tried the oysters, tuna poke and the Bristol Bay Crab from the raw bar. The next night we had the albacore with pressed watermelon, scallop with citrus and oregano and the poke again. There were 6 oysters in the plate, two of which were the most spectacular kumamotos that I have had in a while. They were perfectly plump and deliciously sweet. The oysters come with a trio of sauces (pickled ramp and sake, jalapeño emulsion and Thai chili and cucumber). I prefer my raw oysters without condiments, but I thought I should at least try the sauces. One oyster I had straight from the shell and it was so lovely, but I thought I should at least try the sauces. I do like some spice and leaned toward the jalapeño and the Thai chili sauce which was a great balance of flavors (coolness of the cucumber, mixed with the heat of the chili sauce). I did manage to have one oyster straight from the shell and it was perfect.
I also quite enjoyed the tuna poke. Again, the freshness of the fish was outstanding. The texture of the fish, coupled with the fragrance of the sesame and just a touch of heat that lingers after you take a bite was ethereal. This was garnished with ogo seaweed (I believe) and green onions. I found this plate to be addicting. I was not as excited about the crab. I love crab and have had Bristol Bay crab from Coastal and wanted to see what it was like fresh from the boat. Sadly, I was underwhelmed. The freshness was there and the texture was perfect, but I felt that it lacked seasoning. It tasted a little flat to me. I would try it again, but not until I work my way through the rest of the menu. The raw scallop with citrus and oregano was also good. The sweet scallop taste coupled nicely with the citrus. We also enjoyed the pressed watermelon and albacore. The pressed watermelon was delicious topped with a hint of salt and a touch of spice from the jalapeño.
We tried the grilled octopus as a starter the first night and the clam croquettes the second. I enjoyed the octopus. It was pleasantly surprising to see plate after plate of octopus come of the grill…in Minnesota. It seemed to be a crowd favorite. It was very tender and had a wonderful smoky flavor. It comes plated with different sauces, but one that was interesting was a sweeter sauce that looked like caramel on the plate. There was also some subtle heat. This was a common theme in many of the dishes we tried (heat). The next night we tried the clam croquettes. The execution was great, as was the presentation, but I thought the flavor of the clams got lost in the béchamel sauce in the croquette. I much prefer the ham and cheese or the shrimp and tetilla croquettes at Solera.
On to the main dishes…The prosciutto crusted sturgeon and the sea scallops with corn and chorizo were my favorites…so far. The sturgeon had a wonderful firm, meaty texture that was enveloped in a salty, crunchy layer of prosciutto. This was perfectly complemented by the sweet peas, pea foam and sweet rock shrimp. The scallops were also spectacular. Plump, sweet, and perfectly grilled sea scallops, served with fresh corn, and chorizo, with a touch of spice from the jalapeno. Wow! We had those dishes the first night and we were smiling so much after having such incredible meals, I felt like I was a child with a sugar buzz. The next night we had striped bass with oxtail, eggplant and miso and arctic char with white beans and artichoke giardiniera. The fish was perfectly cooked. I was particularly impressed by the crispy skin of striped bass and the moistness of the fish. I enjoy striped bass quite a bit, but have had it dry and overcooked often enough to be weary of it on a menu. I would order these dishes again, but probably when the weather gets cooler.
There are also many non-fish choices including short ribs, which were just as popular as the octopus judging by how much they were plating. My nephew enjoyed his short rib dish- very tender, you could eat this without a knife. The duck was also highly recommended by one of the chefs, but we stuck with fish.
We learned from our server that Sea Change not only focuses on sustainable seafood, but they are looking into the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification (designating the food as sustainable and environmentally responsible). This includes a chain of custody traceability program to ensure that the seafood is monitored throughout the supply chain to the customer. I can’t imagine that this is a small feat, especially looking at all of the different places the food is coming from.
Needless to say, we really enjoyed our meals and will plan to go back again! Everyone involved in both of our dinners was engaging, which is important since when you are sitting at the raw bar you are right next to them as they go about their jobs. The woman at the raw food station had a sense of humor about her having to practice shucking the shells without grimacing. Even Chef Tim McKee stopped by and asked us how we were enjoying the meal, offered recommendations, and just chatted with us for a minute.
818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN