My wife and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary at Tim McKee's new restaurant Sea Change in the Guthrie theater in Minneapolis. In conversation upon arrival we discovered we've unknowing created a tradition. We celebrated our five year anniversary at La Belle Vie, last year we went to Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque & Pirate Bar. We were just enjoying the day in Stillwater an showed up there. I'm pretty sure my wife knew this was Tim's place, but I had no clue. So now that we are three years running I suppose we have to keep up the tradition next year. Looks like we'll be going to Solara unless a new place arrives...
The space is the former Cue restaurant with some of the old structures intact (bar areas in particular - the island in the back outfitted as a raw bar). The color scheme has been updated to focus on blues and greens, and many of the dinner tables have a loungeable seating configuration with modern low-backed loveseat-types on either side upholstered in a blue and green pattern. It appears these are more commonly used for seating groups of four, but perhaps because we noted in our reservation that it was our anniversary we were given one of those tables and it felt like a little added luxury.
Focus is on seafood and that is all that we had. But there was a duck dish the server recommended and I'd probably try it if I ever encountered it in another restaurant, and I've read at least one good review on the beet salad. The wine list is all about whites, which was
thrilling for my wife. Not a particularly enormous list, and only one Sancerre (family favorite)which we'd not seen before. We ordered it at $60. The producer, Croq Caillotte, supplied a more than decent rendition and that my wife intends to seek this out in the local retail market.
The standout was the grilled BBQ-sauced octopus with salsa verde & pimiento and cilantro sauces artfully arranged for at-will garnishing. We asked for the chef to choose our 1/2 dozen oysters from their daily selection and ended up with three pairs: malpeques, hama hamas, and koshi bays served with a trio of emulsions - one jalapeno-based and a
little more opaque (but not terribly spicy), one "Thai cucumber" (probably fish sauce as it was clear), and one cloudy sake-based (the sake flavor came out well and was perhaps the favorite). A plate of medallions thinly sliced from a raw scallop had a light citrus oregano
and pepper misting with some olive oil added in to balance the sweetness. Another favorite, the yellowfin tuna poke w/ sesame and seaweed was simply good fish with those common accompaniments but quality all-around.
I had the prosciutto-encrusted sturgeon with pea emulsion, beans and rock shrimp at front. We both enjoyed the flavor and texture of this substantial piece of fish. We also noted the unexpected umami-quality of the pea emulsion and had a guessing game to determine how they managed to make peas so "meaty." My wife selected the spice crusted tuna with Jerusalem artichoke (or maybe it was sunchoke) puree and sweet potato puree. Again, the fish was superior quality, almost perfectly rarest rare. The spice crust was spicey and a little more peppercorn that she prefers. I'd say the purees were sadly not wisely chosen enhancements and maybe they can find something a little more traditional (and traditional for a reason) to plate with the fish next time.
We considered returning to another plate of the octopus but decided to explore Sea Change's sweet side instead. My wife had a trio of little bitty sorbet scoops - lemon w/basil topping, cantaloupe with fried pancetta (fabulous!), and mandarin yogurt accompanied by a glass of light and lightly sweet sparkling moscato. I had chocolate Grenache with a
small scoop of what looked like blackberry sorbet. The grenache was very rich.
We showed up early at 6:30 for a 7pm reservation on a Monday night, so no problem getting in but it certainly wasn't guaranteed as the dining room was already mostly occupied. I think there was a performance that evening because our server immediately asked if we needed to be on a schedule to make a start. She was very personable and had been with the restaurant since it was Cue (which was not long ago as Sea Change only opened two weeks ago). She also gave us the scoop on how Tim McKee trains his staff. She's tried everything on the menu and seemed to genuinely believe the Sancerre would pair well with some of our selections. Tim was not in the shop on this night, but she was sure he'd have loved to come out and hear of our affection for his restaurants. It was obvious she was a fan as well.
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