By Carol Brock
Step into Seed and you realize immediately Millie (25-year former restaurateur) doesn't live there any more. The look is Manhattan with the addition of a sunlit greenhouse rear room and an Oriental overtone dining area. (That striking horizontally woven wall, for instance.)
But the big eye and palate catcher is the chef's table, an appetizer bar par excellence. At luncheon, when most have that right-out-of-the-garden look with jeans – some wearing flat and some spike heels – they hover around its glass enclosure. You can go all out with five or seven selections dexterously arranged by the chef on a narrow, trough-like, three-inch wide and three-foot long plate. (Well, it seems three feet and it did project over the sides of my table for two.)
After your last selection is plated and you're back at your table, the waiter holds the plate aloft with one hand and totes it to you.
My repast? Logs of grilled tofu sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds (intriguing); dried tomato quarters with garlic slices (chewy, delectable); an exotic Chinese vegetable (interesting); grated summer squash with cherry tomato halves and sunflower seeds (chilled, superb); Seed's slaw – a white and purple cabbage and vegetable melange (shredded ultra fine, very fine); small mushroom caps (served warm, absolutely wonderful); and snap pea pods (not snow pea pods, sweeter) encrusted with black and white sesame seeds (Great! What did we do in the pre-sesame era?)
And, yes, my black-garbed waiter was right, “Seven is a lot of food.”
“I'll doggy bag,” I reassured him. There's more for choosing – noodle salad and such. Or you can have two choices with Seed's ciabatta sandwich of the day, also on display there.
At dinner, soup seems the big item, lentil and others. When I supped, main dish salads were a natural progression. Seed's salads include a Mediterranean roasted vegetable (mixed greens tossed with roasted peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, portobello mushrooms, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts and feta cheese with a lemon dressing).
The list of appetizers sounds as if there can't be a loser. Perhaps I chose it. The vegetable rolls were so thick-skinned, with an ice cold, uncooked, shredded vegetable interior. The accompanying dipping sauces, a soy and a sweet chili, sat eye-like in round dishes with salad greens for a nose and the rolls forming the mouth. Undoubtedly, the arrangement was a coincidence.
Always looking for the “new” to add taste excitement, a Greek fish, branzino, served with cucumber salad sounded just right. The waitress noted, “It comes bead and tail on,” and I was appreciative. I'm “pro” but not all are. The whole fish – porgie like, poached and moist, head, tail, bones and all – had the head draped with diced cucumber salad. (Clever.) There was a delicious wheatberry accompaniment. Cubes, pearls and moist flakes – great textures – slide past your tongue. Congratulations to the chef, Schaun Knoll.
The dessert menu lists three notables: a warm chocolate creation, chocolate lava cake; an apple cobbler; and a blackberry peach crisp. The peach cobbler's topping had just the right crunch and butteriness. As for size, make it young man's appetite. Do note, the dab of cream is topped with a halved strawberry and sprinkling of blueberries. My luncheon dessert was the fruit cup with cubed cantaloupe, honeydew and apple topped with quartered strawberries with a hint of sugar plus a few blueberries.
The French press coffee at Seed is a delight. A pot for one is $3 and for $5 for two. There's the ceremony of pouring, after a few minutes pause. Go for it. And if you wish to be ultra, choose from Puerto Rican, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan and other coffees. I had Brazilian, and it was great. And so it was at dinner when I just ordered French press.
May Seed sprout and grow. The chef table luncheon is a creative addition to the dining scene on Middle Neck Road. The restaurant is staffed by “young-uns.” It has nice touches with glass cubes planted in the vase of fresh freesia, low lighting. On Thursday there's jazzified dining with keyboard accompaniment, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. On nights when you dine early, you'll find others negating that desert island feel.
The Bottom Line
Fresh American with Asian and Mediterranean blends. Vegetarian/non vegetarian. Creative chef's table appetizer bar makes great luncheon or dinner appetizer. Terrific warm desserts. Jazz with keyboard accompaniment Thursdays.
25 Middle Neck Road
Vegetable Rice Paper Roll (julienne Napa cabbage, cucumber, carrots, enoki mushrooms, red pepper in paper thin rice roll. Sweet chili sauce, sesame seed soy dipping sauce.)…$7
Herb Encrusted Goat Cheese Medallion (goat cheese rolled in herb blend, baked, served warm with golden beets & baby greens drizzled with balsamic)…$7
Sesame Seared Tuna (tuna rolled in black/white sesame, pan seared, served with soba noodles, snap peas, julienne red pepper in Asian garlic, ginger sauce)…$21
Broccoli Rabe & Fresh Mozzarella Ravioli (round, jumbo ravioli filled with broccoli rabe & mozzarella, layered over diced tomato, roasted garlic, & Parmesan, in tomato broth)…$13
Orange Ginger Shrimp (5 shrimp with bok choy, shiitaki & enoki mushrooms, layered over mound of coconut black rice covered with orange ginger sauce)…$19
Chocolate Lava Cake (hot)…$6
Peach and Blackberry Crisp (hot)…$6
Roasted Pineapple Sundae (hot)…$6
Cuisine: Fresh American (Asian/Mediterranean)
Setting: Chef's table
Service: Bright and friendly
Hours: L & D 7days. Brunch mid April
Parking: Three municipal lots
Location: One-half block N LIRR
Dress: Casual. Jeans at lunch
Credit cards: All major
Private parties: To 90
Off-premise catering: Yes
Children: Own menu
Noise level: Fri & Sat moderate
Handicap accessible: Yes