There is a time when one happily eats one’s words. For me, it was the time when I entered Sei Bar and was immediately floored. That was the night of Valentine’s Day, which the head waitress later said was one of their busiest nights of the year (the other contenders being Christmas and New Year’s).
From the outside, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Sei Bar has a crisp, spiffy interior, divided into two sections — the brightly lit dining section, and the more intimate bar section, where TV screens glow over the diners at the bar and those behind them at candle-lit tables. Previously, whenever en route to Medford Square from Tufts, I never thought much about Sei Bar, which looked plain from across the street. I never bothered to Google reviews of this lone restaurant, standing by itself among rows of houses. Once, someone mentioned that they liked Sei Bar a lot. After my trip there, I think I will now also be that someone who tells people that great sushi resides in Sei Bar.
Upon entering, you will see a sushi bar, where chefs make all of the handrolls, makis, etc. before your hungry eyes. You will also see a waiting area of sorts, perhaps for the many who do take-out orders with the establishment. But do not be fooled by the sushi bar, because Sei Bar sells more than Japanese cuisine. On its extensive menu, one can find both Thai and Japanese cuisine. From udon to pad thai, tempura to curry, Sei Bar is a good idea for friends who want to taste a bit of both cuisines. They even have Chinese-style food items (General Gau’s Chicken, Lychee Duck Breast & Confit), which makes for three cultures you can try at a go.
After the customary wait, in which we distracted ourselves with the broadcast of ice skating at the Sochi Olympics, the pad thai arrived first in a steaming, juicy pile of wet noodles. If we weren’t famished, the pad thai would probably have made us quite confused or disappointed even. Their pad thai wasn’t tasteless, but it certainly wasn’t piquant. I love spicy food (nearly to dangerous levels — never ask Rod Dee to make your order “very very very spicy”, because I think it was only luck that I’ve lived to tell the tale), so perhaps Sei Bar’s pad thai was underwhelming because of its lack of a kick. And the way in which the ambiguous tasting sauce slid off the wet noodles. But I’m no pad thai connoisseur, and maybe you’ll find that you like it better wet. Dutifully, we ate the noodles, which were not very good as “pad thai” but still acceptable as “noodles”. Then the maki came. And it was the cleanest line of bite-sized heaven I’d ever tasted on this side of Boston.
For kicks, we ordered three types of maki, Medford Maki (grilled salmon, avocado and cucumber roll topped with tempura crumbs, crab meat & spicy mayo), Caterpillar Maki (eel cucumber roll wrapped in avocado), and Philadelphia Maki (avocado, smoked salmon & cream cheese). The flavors were expertly combined, such that no single component outshone its companions. All three types were equally stunning, which topped the whole experience off, because it is mournful when one moves on to the next dish and comes to the realization that the highlight of the meal was what was just finished. The ingredients were evidently fresh, which is especially important for dishes like sushi. And there was hardly anything that could detract from the sumptuousness of their Japanese creations.
This first visit to Sei Bar has made me certain I will return and have more makis. Perhaps when I’m legal I’ll try out their bar — there were patrons who ordered drinks which arrived in an interesting-looking bowl of sorts, from which multiple straws protruded and made getting tipsy a truly communal experience. But that’s another article for another time.
Food (taste): A-
Food (presentation): A
- Min Yi Tan
Cover photo source.