VENUE DETAILS

Sea Change Restaurant & Bar

Price:

Cuisine Type:

Serves:

Handicap Accessible:

Yes

Outdoor Seating:

No

Handicap Accessible:

Yes

Outdoor Seating:

No

REVIEW

It has been a watershed year for chef Tim McKee.

Along with overseeing four top-performing restaurants -- La Belle Vie, Solera and Barrio in Minneapolis and Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque in Stillwater -- he and business partner Josh Thoma opened their second Barrio in St. Paul's Mears Park neighborhood in June. A few weeks earlier, he was the first Minnesotan to be named Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation, his industry's equivalent of being handed an Oscar. Oh, and in July, McKee launched a little enterprise called Sea Change.

The name has several meanings. First, the obvious: The Guthrie Theater's principal dining venue, formerly known as Cue, has swapped management (now Dallas-based Culinaire), hired the region's highest-profile chef (McKee) and been transformed into a seafood-focused restaurant.

Another switch: By pledging to source all underwater proteins from what he calls "sustainable fisheries and environmentally responsible farms," McKee is communicating a break from harmful production practices.

But to this diner, the name signals an exciting new epoch in the local seafood dining category. Sea Change is clearly the genre's first notable player since the Oceanaire Seafood Room dropped anchor more than a decade ago.

Much of the food is sublime, due to both McKee's prodigious culinary gifts as well as his deep talent pool, most notably chef de cuisine Erik Anderson (previously at Porter & Frye and Auriga) and sous chef Jim Christiansen (a longtime pillar in the La Belle Vie kitchen). Prices rarely land above the low-$20s, which represents another about-face. McKee told me that many diners viewed Cue, fairly or not, as too expensive and, let's face it, when Minnesotans hear the word "seafood," our brains automatically start thinking "Ka-ching."

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