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The Sea Grill

When the waiter at The Sea Grill mentioned the tasting dinner, we barely looked at the menu. Ours was a unanimous "yes." We wouldn't have to agonize about what to pick from the lengthy selections. The choice couldn't have been more satisfying. There's nothing in Executive Chef Ed Brown's background that suggests experience in kaiseki cooking and yet that is exactly what we were reminded of. Kaiseki is a Japanese meal where course after course of exquisite small portions of prized dishes are artistically presented on fine tableware.

We started with a small crisp risotto cake filled with crème fraîche and a layer of tiny salty beads of red Japanese caviar. Next came a chilled Maleque oyster sitting on a cone of ice, wrapped with ribbons of seaweed and topped with Osetra caviar. Glistening slices of salmon carpaccio bathed in lime juice and rice vinegar followed. We continued with a sea scallop swaddled with large slices of black truffle on top of a bed of steamed greens and crowned with caviar. Roasted monkfish was a tad dry, but the mashed leek potatoes and the toasted leeks that accompanied it were heavenly. Roasted lobster and angel hair pasta and fava beans with which it was paired were also standouts.

Five ambrosial desserts were brought to the table–chocolate soufflé with white chocolate ice cream, assorted sorbets, basmati rice torte with date Armagnac ice cream, fruit and berry soup with a subtle liqueur base and warm chocolate steamed pudding.

We had a meal with perfect harmony although we ate no soup, salad, poultry or meat. In spite of the quantity of food, we did not feel that we had overeaten. Everything was light, greaseless and seasoned to perfection. Oh yes, steak and guinea hen are on the menu, but fish and seafood are what the chef wants to feed people. Understandably. He excels at preparing it.

The sommelier and chef are careful about matching food and wine and the captain does a stellar job of suggesting the right bottles for the tasting menu. We enjoyed a `92 Trefethen Riesling, a McDowell Viognier and a `93 Kisler Chardonnay.

In summer when the garden is dripping with baskets of flowers and the fountain is flowing most guests at The Sea Grill, located in Rockefellar Center, choose to dine outdoors. In winter when they must retreat behind a wall of glass, they hardly feel deprived. The restaurant looks out on the famous skating rink.

The Sea Grill, Rockefellar Plaza Concourse, 19 West 49 Street, New York, NY 10019. Tel. 212-246-9201. Lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Monday to Saturday. Very expensive. www.restaurantassociates.com/theseagrill

Winter 1995-96