First Bite: Seaside Poke
Sure, poke doughnuts and sushi burritos are trendy, but they don't require much craft. The masses that consume them care more about their appearance than the synthesis of flavors. And while Seaside Poke chefs Tai Nguyen and Vuthy "Tee" Srey have designed beautiful bowls, their backgrounds, at Uchi and MF Sushi, respectively, mean they have interesting, flavorful dishes on lock, too.
Like most poke spots throughout the city, Seaside offers a build-your-own option. But you shouldn't take it. Nguyen and Srey have done far better than you could. The menu of two regular bowls plus a weekly special that I tried last year at Seaside's pop-up at Doc Holliday’s in Rice Village has ballooned to eight different bowls.
The Salmon Ponzu descends from fruit-filled bowls that took shape in the pop-up days. Salmon combines with orange suprêmes and edamame in a buoyant ponzu sauce. It's all covered in ponzu as the name suggests, but gets as much character from the crumbled crispy garlic that coats nearly every surface of the dish.
The Truffle Yellowtail owes the most to the chefs' fine dining backgrounds. In a shoyu-truffle dressing, yellowtail is paired with crispy puffed black rice, cilantro that's clipped to order from mini beds stored behind the counter (perhaps Seaside's coolest trick), and ito togarashi—crimson threads of dried chile.
Another asset unique to Seaside is a thought-out vegetarian option. The restaurant sources produce from Covey Rise Farms, Plant It Forward Farms and Moonflower Farms. Due to the extreme seasonality of the local farms, the Urban Harvest bowl's contents change with each delivery. The unifying factor is colorful, precisely cut veggies that, like the fish, are served raw. Earlier this week, the combo included heirloom carrots, watermelon radishes, corn and mini chunks of Romanesco dressed in sweet soy sauce, garlic and sesame.
Drinks include upgraded basics like Topo Chico and Maine Root sodas, but also bottles of Xela Coffee Roasters' Screwston Concentrate, which is appropriately bottled like an oversized bottle of cough syrup.