An Elegant Voyage Awaits at The Sea by Alexander’s Steakhouse

TThe chocolate souffle at The Sea by Alexander's Steakhouse in Palo Alto.

If Tiffany’s recast itself as a restaurant, it would resemble The Sea by Alexander’s Steakhouse.

All vestiges of tiki-dom have been thoroughly excised from the former Trader Vic’s on El Camino Real in Palo Alto. In its place, the upscale The Sea launches itself in a shimmery, sophisticated palette of watery blues, grays and white. There’s a glass-fronted kitchen and one wall in the dining room with insets for vases ofย  striking white orchids.

As the name infers, The Sea is the newest concept by the owners of Alexander’s Steakhouse, with locations in Cupertino and San Francisco. Even before it opened, The Sea experienced some troubled waters, what with the abrupt letting go of Jeffrey Stout, the founding chef of Alexander’s and chief operating officer. But if my recent visit as a guest of the restaurant was any indication, The Sea seems to be navigating a smooth course in the hands of Executive Chef Yu Min Lin, whose impressive credits include a stint as chef de cuisine at Providence in Los Angeles, as well as stages at the French Laundry in Yountville and Manresa in Los Gatos. He’s also a trained sushi chef.

Executive Chef Yu Min Lin expedites at the glass-fronted open kitchen.

This is a restaurant that definitely pays attention to the details. You are provided hot towels at the start to pamper your hands. The table is de-crumbed after every course. The bread is made in-house and there are several to choose from. Coffee service at the end of the meal comes on its own compact tray, complete with a chocolate bonbon.

You choice of at least four different house-made breads, including a whole-grain croissant.

A shiso cocktail (front) and a Manhattan (back).

Those who have dined at Alexander’s Steakhouse will find a few familiar items on the menu, including the wildly popular hamachi shots ($12) and the top ofย  the line A5-grade Wagyu steak.

That evening, the amuse was a morsel of Spanish sardine brightened with Meyer lemon and gelee made from the grassy Japanese shisshito pepper.

An amuse bouche of Spanish sardine.

My friend Donna started with the Dungeness crab salad ($20). Large chunks of crab are arranged over sticky purple rice that’s actually made into sort of a large sushi roll with more crab in its center. Blood orange and ginger creme fraiche play off the incredible sweetness of the crab. The “It” ingredient of the moment, chia seeds, make an appearance as a garnish, too.

Dungeness crab salad with purple sticky rice.

Tuna tatake -- the best tuna I've had since being in Hawaii.

My tuna tatake ($18) — wild from Hawaii — was the best seared tuna dish I’d had since I last traveled to the islands there. The freshness of the tuna was so apparent. The flesh was firm, bright and sweet. A quenelle of mashed avocado added lushness while garlic chips gave a nice crunch to each bite.

Mero ($40), Hawaii’s answer to Chilean sea bass, was silky, flaky and crowned with sauteed broccolini. Port wine sauce ringed the dish to give a lovely fruitiness.

Hawaiian sea bass with broccolini.

Magnificent scallops -- flown live from Maine.

I opted for a special — live scallops ($42) flown in overnight from Maine. Three very large ones were sauteed with a perfect golden crust and served with puddles of nutty parsnip puree and wine reduction, as well as a small bed of barley risotto. The accompaniments were all in restrained amounts, all the better to let the glorious, plump scallops be the true hero of the dish.

Truffle fries. You know you want them.

As a side, we couldn’t resist ordering the truffle fries dusted with parmesan. Dunk the skinny fries into the accompanying truffle aioli and just try to not eat every last one, though it’s a good bet that you will.

Desserts are by Pastry Chef Dan Huynh. Souffles ($20) take 15 minutes to bake, but they’re worth the time if you have it. The one offered that evening was a cloud-like chocolate. If you’re an avowed chocoholic, though, don’t expect a deep, dark chocolate bomb. Rather, this one is much more delicate in tasting with the chocolate playing second fiddle to the peppermint elements on the plate, namely two good-sized chocolate macarons filled with mint ice cream. They’re intensely minty so once you eat them, you don’t really taste the chocolate anymore.

Pandora's box is all about chocolate -- and miso.

Coffee service with style.

A trio of sweets.

Pandora ($12) is an intriguing dessert composed of an airy chocolate mousse cube, hazelnut, praline and a scoop of caramelized miso ice cream. The miso is fairly faint tasting. If you didn’t know it was there, you might not detect it, save for a hint of savoriness on the finish. That characteristic, though, made the rich ice cream actually balance the sweet nuggets of toffee crumble on the plate.

Mignardises arrive next — the tiniest gingerbread men, blood orange-hibiscus gelee and financiers.

Feel like a kid again.

Just when you think you’re done, the piece de resistance arrives looking like a geriatric Marge Simpson hairdo — a beehive of purple-white cotton candy. Grape flavored, of course.

It’s been a tradition at Alexander’s and it continues here, along with the bar that has been set for fine-dining with flair and fun.

More: My Dinner at Alexander’s in San Francisco

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  • What a creative and beautiful-looking dinner. Looks like those freshly-minted tech millionaires have a new playground for dinner and don’t have to drive into San Francisco! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • What a fun place to dine in. Everything looks so good. Oh boy, those scallops are gorgeous…and I can never say no to Souffles! No matter how long the wait is. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Looks excellent. Oddly I was most tempted by the truffle fries. LOL!

  • I always love open kitchens! This sounds tremendous. Lovely food, and I certainly wouldn’t resist a truffle fry. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Knowing this was a former Trader Vic’s location, I’d probably have to start my meal with a Mai Tai! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Good review – thanks.

  • My husband has been there but he told me he was disappointed at the restaurant so he hasn’t gone back (which means I haven’t got to go!!!!!!)…. I’m sending this link to him. By the way, he’s been bugging me to try the pork bun which you featured a while ago (I sent him the link too) but we haven’t had a chance… so many places we need to go thanks to you! ๐Ÿ™‚ By the way, Happy New Year Carolyn!!

  • I think you ate everything that hubby and I would have chosen from a menu! It looks really good-especially the tuna and scallops! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Okay I want to go there!! This place sounds and looks awesome!

  • Everything looked amazing! I’m hungry now ๐Ÿ˜›

  • That looks like the best, most perfect dinner ever! I would love to eat there. The entrees and fries looked great, but all those sweets! I wish I could dive right in.

  • We just celebrated mu husband’s birthday at Alexander’s in Cupertino and had a lovely meal. (I did notice I was the only patron to leave the restaurant with my spun sugar in hand — but why put it on such a portable cone if we’re not meant to take it?!) So excited to see the The Sea promises the same quality and attention to detail. Those fries, alone (which we sampled at Alexander’s) are enough to keep me coming back — especially now that it’s a bit closer to our neck of the woods. Lovely and thorough write-up. Thanks for sharing!

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