Sea Change

Sea Change is the restaurant at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. It opened a few years ago to rave reviews and continues to be rather popular and well-received. I had one middling to poor dinner there with friends a couple of years ago and was not terribly motivated to go back. However, this year there was some noise around an omakase dinner program they had in January, and I believe there’s a different chef now than when I ate there last; and so as we tried to figure out where to go after our excellent meal at Piccolo last month it seemed like a decent bet. And as we were dining with a bunch of friends it seemed like a good opportunity to get a lot of what’s on the current menu and see if my prior experience might have been due only to bad luck in ordering.

Well, some of the things we ate were very good, but, on the whole, this was not any better, and in my particular case, it may have been worse than my previous meal. It certainly is the worst high-end meal I’ve had in the Twin Cities in a while. I know this is not the most enticing invitation but read on to see how we fared.

There were five of us, and we decided to get three savoury courses and skip dessert. We did have an overlapping dish or two but otherwise covered a good chunk of the menu (and I got to taste enough of everyone else’s stuff to get a good sense of it).

(As always, click on a thumbnail to open a larger slideshow.)

We were given some pear sorbet on the house. I’ve no idea if this is standard operating procedure or if they were being extra nice to us because our waitress heard me complaining about my fish, but it was very nice.

Other than this gesture, service was not very good either. Three of us arrived before the other two and while we did tell our waitress that we would wait till our friends arrived to order anything she disappeared on us completely. We had to track another waiter down 15 minutes later (when our friends still hadn’t arrived) to ask for bread and to order some wine. And she kept disappearing for long stretches between courses as well. And at one point she asked us if she should wait till we’d all finished one course before bringing the next. She was very personable but perhaps new on the job.

All of this and two bottles of a decent Riesling came to $438 for five people inclusive of tax and tip. Which is way too much for the quality of our meal. Only 50% of the 14 odd dishes we ate were good and most of the rest we thought were either blah or actively bad. The actual raw stuff in the first course–the langoustines, the poke and the oysters–was excellent, and the fish in the later courses was always cooked well. There just seems to be some loss of control when it comes to more elaborate cooked dishes. Take a hint from your raw offerings, Chef Malone: less is more. Then again, Food & Wine named you one of the Best New Chefs of 2013 so perhaps I’m not the one you, or anyone else, should pay attention to.

So, after three very good outings in a row (Alma, Borough, and especially Piccolo) this was a bit of a stumble. I think we may have to return to the arms of 112 Eatery next month.

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