SEA

 

3.5 stars for Tony Sindaco's Lauderdale-by-the-Sea venture

SEA

Rochelle Koff

After three years, Tony Sindaco is back in the kitchen. And he’s sizzling. The passionate, pony-tailed chef, best known for his years at Sunfish Grill, is cooking longtime favorites like heavenly conch chowder and hearty tuna Bolognese at his new restaurant, SEA, in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Sindaco’s chalkboard menu is a little less adventurous — and less expensive — than it was in his Sunfish Grill years, but he says he’s trying to keep costs down. He’s also starting with a small but smart wine list, dominated by California labels priced from $24 to $80, with 12 by the glass. But customers who became hooked on the chef’s stellar seafood in the late ’90s, when he and his former wife first opened Sunfish Grill in a divey spot in Pompano Beach, will find many of his signature dishes and flavors here. A divorce ended that collaboration, but the wait is over. Sindaco’s back.

Ambience: The shoebox-size space, with 27 seats, five of them at the bar, is not the kind of spot where you’d expect to find his elegant filet mignon or expertly cooked black grouper. Bathed in pale blue and brightened by mosaic tiles and a whimsical mural of sea creatures, SEA has a laidback, friendly vibe, attentive service and value-focused pricing: prix-fixe three-course menus (soup, salad or appetizer, an entree and dessert) from $28 to $38. Add-ons are available — we paid an extra $4 for ultra-creamy burrata — and you can order a la carte. While there are staples, the menu changes every Monday and Thursday, so regulars won’t be bored.

What Worked

  • House-made focaccia - rustic slices studded with olives and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sindaco’s luxurious soup du jour
  • Sensational conch chowder that starts with the sizzle of garlic and mingles in carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes, sherry and white wine, peppers, chunks of potatoes, curry,  cumin and lots of conch
  • Onion-mushroom bisque with deep flavors driven by caramelized onions and crimini mushrooms infused with chicken stock, chardonnay, sherry and a touch of cream
  • Refreshing tuna and watermelon ceviche
  • The portobello cap: a grilled mushroom cap filled with chopped, marinated squash, mushrooms and onions seasoned with fennel and garlic that’s finished in the oven and topped with a corn and crab relish and a drizzle of hollandaise sauce
  • Greek salad - a perky plate of chopped iceberg, cucumbers and red onions with feta and lemon-scented vinaigrette
  • A simple, exquisite, lush and supple mahi braise with cannelini beans, artichokes, tomatoes, white wine and lots of garlic and basil
  • Perfectly cooked Dijon-crusted black grouper
  • Tuna Bolognese - diced, sautéed tuna in a zesty marinara
  • Seared yellowtail snapper with a light sauce of lemon-chive beurre blanc, served with just-firm broccoli and carrots
  • Sindaco’s trademark cake with a hefty dose of George Dickel whiskey
  • Black-and-white crème brûlée with a dark chocolate base, vanilla custard and a delightfully brittle caramelized crust

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