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SeaBass Kitchen review, Sandy Springs

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He approaches the table and quietly puts the fish knife to work filleting the whole bronzini with a practiced hand. Using a soft voice he details each step and leans in to reveal the choice strip above the head. In a careful and assured manner, he skillfully removes the spine.

My tableside fish filleter is Laurend Abraham, managing partner at the new SeaBass Kitchen. The restaurant occupies the former Rumi’s Kitchen space on Roswell Road.

SeaBass Kitchen, under the direction of chef Sam Brunola, serves a range of seafood with a few nonwater-dwelling alternatives. Brunola,Jenny-Turknett-Reviewwhose experience includes stints at Van Gogh’s (now Bistro VG) and Horseradish Grill, says his cooking highlights the flavors of the ingredients without masking them with heavy sauces.

Brunola’s food at SeaBass Kitchen reflects his philosophy, with simple preparations featuring Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. He uses a handful of key ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, lemon, red wine vinegar and oregano that put the seafood front and center, for better or for worse.

It’s for the better in the case of the whole bronzini (European sea bass) that Abraham fillets tableside ($30). The flaky white fish that’s been grilled in a fish basket over an open flame has a mild flavor complemented by the simple seasoning of dried oregano, salt and pepper. A dish of robust olive oil and lemon juice sits to the side, allowing you to dress the fish to taste.

After that, things get murky. Quality ingredients and flawless execution are needed to make these minimalistic dishes work. And when they don’t work, there’s no hiding behind sauces or other masking techniques.

Octopus (All photos by Becky Stein)

Octopus (All photos by Becky Stein)

Take the octopus ($10). With the first taste you appreciate the play of the grill char with the acidity and light sweetness from the red wine vinegar and fruity olive oil dressing. But as you continue chewing the octopus, you’ll find it encased in a ring that schleps away in mealy gobs before giving way to the firmer interior.

The grilled prawns ($24) have a similar texture. With just oregano, olive oil, lemon juice and a touch of white wine, the prawns must speak for themselves. And that they do, crying out with the same mealy voice as the octopus.

The fish tends to be safer — if you order carefully. This might be a good time to download the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app. You could order the Chilean sea bass, but the app would suggest that you don’t.

While a small number of fisheries are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as sustainable, the restaurant doesn’t hold the Chain of Custody certification documents to track the fish, leaving that responsibility to the supplier.

Inland Seafood, who supplies the Chilean sea bass for SeaBass Kitchen, is not currently MSC-COC certified. The company confirmed that it doesn’t specifically track whether all purchases come from certified fisheries. Yet, I’m told they only buy from regulation-following importers who keep records on the date, time and location of the catch.

You could try the blackened mahi mahi ($16 lunch), but the long-cooked stringy fish might not be what you’d expect. The blackening seasoning consists of smoked paprika, garlic powder and cinnamon, with no heat to be found.

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Shish with squish

Go for the swordfish shish ($21). Large cubes of the firm fish come threaded on wooden skewers doused with an herby yogurt, the flavor focal point of the dish. The plate also comes with an overly soft and zero-seasoned Israeli couscous. A little squish with your shish.

Speaking of texture, the crabcake-style seafood burger ($12 lunch) has an appealing (and interesting) one. The cornmeal dusting makes for a crisp coating concealing a chunky mixture of lump crab, shrimp, salmon and halibut. The lemon-herb aioli adds a brightness, although not enough to mask the burger’s fishiness.

Sides for entrees include the Israeli couscous, fried potatoes (frozen french fries) tossed with oregano, and SeaBass Kitchen rice, heavily scented with cinnamon and fish sauce. Order the julienne veggies.

If I return to SeaBass Kitchen, my plan will be to start with the Kafteri, a compellingly tangy spread of feta, garlic and oil served with pita from Jerusalem Bakery. Then, I’d order the whole fish and finish with french press coffee and the tiramisu-like mango cream cake ($7) from Joli Kobe.

A perfect synergy can come from simple cooking and clean flavors. But for that to happen, both the execution and sourcing must be approached with the same care Abraham takes with the tableside presentation of the bronzini.

SEABASS KITCHEN
6152 Roswell Road N.E., Atlanta, 404-705-8880
1stars5Food: seafood with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors
Service: friendly enough, but somewhat inexperienced
Best dishes: whole fish, Kafteri
Vegetarian selections: few options beyond dips/spreads and salads
Price range: $$-$$$
Credit cards: all major credit cards
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Children: no children on my visits, but seems like they would be fine
Parking: valet
Reservations: yes
Wheelchair access: yes
Smoking: no
Noise level: low, may be louder if full
Patio: yes, enclosed for the winter
Takeout: yes
ratings_key_febUSE

22 comments Add your comment

Ken

February 21st, 2013
8:46 am

Just reading this review turned my stomach! I don’t want to eat at SeaBass Kitchen if it is free, much less 30 bucks for garbage. And since sea bass is controversial why name it resturant . This joint will be out of business before this comment is published.

JPC

February 21st, 2013
9:18 am

My wife and I had the pleasure of eating here on Valentine’s Day. Our experience was quite different. While the service was a little uneven, the owner seemed to recognize that and made sure to address it directly with us in a humorous and appealing manner. When we did get our food, we both enjoyed our dishes immensely. We were seated next to another couple who had been there previously and had very much enjoyed both of their experiences. We look forward to returning to this small, neighborhood restaurant.

John

February 21st, 2013
10:09 am

Well, the review is written by a kindergardener who just finished his creative writing class but I rather enjoyed the food here. This locale is starting to spawn some excellent starter restaurants. The place has only been open for a little while so I expect the service to be a little dodgy at first, especially if you expect people to know what MSC-COC certified is. BTW, check up on that organization, I’m not exactly blown away by their certification method. All in all, as the review suggests, I’m impressed with a chef that can do this much with these ingredients and not “hide behind the sauce.” Always a pleasure to get competent cooking, cheers!

David D

February 21st, 2013
1:16 pm

Who wrote this? The whole Bronzini is not European sea bass — it is ACTULLY Mediterranean sea bass..And no restaurant in GA has to be MSC-COC certified or the product supplier just the company that fishes the fish. My doctor does not know when and where my pill was and where it was made before he prescribes it to me I just eat it and it is delicious. I like to see a food writer open a restaurant and see that reality show.

PJ

February 21st, 2013
3:57 pm

The Monterey Bay Aquarium says, “Consumers wishing to purchase MSC-certified Chilean seabass must be very careful. All restaurants and grocery stores that sell MSC products are required to have the MSC “Chain of Custody” certification. Legitimate purveyors should be able to produce this document when consumers ask. If the certificate is not available, assume the fish is not certified and don’t make the purchase.” The rating given is “avoid.”

For those of us to review the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s useful site to understand more about sustainable fishing practices and which fish are considered to come from such practices, the type of information provided in this review is very helpful. The long-standing controversy of Chilean Seabass would lend itself to at least a mention of this in a review of a restaurant with this fish in the name and on its menu.

I will admit I do not have firsthand experience with this restaurant. My parents live in a stone’s throw of this place. They were very excited about its opening. A couple of weeks in, they walked over with some neighbors to check it out. Sadly, they probably will not go back and what they told me will keep me away as well. Nothing any of them had was good. They were all disappointed in their meals, but my dad most of all. His fish was so full of pin bones he could not eat it. He could not eat it at all. Maybe once some time has passed they’ll give it another shot – hard to say.

Betti

February 21st, 2013
8:21 pm

I can’t believe this review. We dined at SeaBass Kitchen last night and had a fine, fresh, well cooked dinner. I had the Chilean sea bass and it was cooked and seasoned to perfection and was quite fresh.
Chilean sea bass is a regulated fishery and all product imported into the US must be certified by NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Sea bass is actually the most regulated species in the sea and only certified fish are available. MSC, Marine Stewardship Council, is a self sustaining organization and works to it’s own benefit. They make the money needed to operate by charging for the audits necessary to be “MSC Certified”. NOAA is a government entity that oversees USDC, the inspecting body of the US for seafood. Give this restaurant, and most others a break. Both MSC and Monterrey Bay Aquarium are not, necessarily the best options to decide which seafood you should eat. If you really want to know which seafood is safe to eat in the US, visit the NOAA website.

james

February 21st, 2013
9:09 pm

@David D – bronzini is referred to as both Mediterranean and European sea bass, since, you know, there are all those European countries on the Mediterranean coast… And like it or not, there are plenty of consumers now who care whether their sea bass is MSC certified. Burying your head in the sand isn’t a smart business strategy.

Drisconi

February 21st, 2013
9:51 pm

Tops!! Best seafood and setting in Sandy Springs!Staff like family, great Clam chowder, perfect fish every time!!! and I want to Thank the staff for taking a great care of us and chef for one of the freshest Seabass in Atlanta.

Jared

February 21st, 2013
10:38 pm

Sounds to me like the reviewer woke up on the wrong side of the bed or has a chip on his shoulder. How could 1 star be justified? I’ve been there twice. Once I had the whole Seabass and the 2nd time salmon. Both were great. Also have had the mussels and calamari. mussles were THE BEST ive had in atlanta (toss up between jct kitchen though). I do agree more side options are needed but this review is ridiculous. I never comment on these things but this is way too harsh a review.

Jon

February 21st, 2013
10:43 pm

I don’t know about certified bronzini but I ate there twice and my fish was awesome. Especially the salmon salad for lunch. This guy didnt say anything bad about the food but have it 1 star? That doesn’t make sense to me.

sheriff john brown

February 22nd, 2013
7:01 am

Another reason not to go OTP. swordfish “shish” ($21) r u kidding me? Place will be OOB in 6 months after this review

RWein

February 22nd, 2013
12:55 pm

Appreciated the review mentioning Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app. Closer to home, our very own Georgia Aquarium also has a free app for those interested in sustainability. It’s called Seafood Savvy.

[...] SeaBass Kitchen review, Sandy Springs [...]

Omar Lattouf

February 23rd, 2013
9:46 pm

Great Restaurant, Terrific food. Outstanding service.
SBK will be the big hit seafood restaurant in Atlanta.
OL

Lina

February 23rd, 2013
10:44 pm

Seabass kitchen is the best seafood I have had in Atlanta. The mussels are awesome. The fish is awesome. The service is fantastic. I have referred this restaurant to several friends and they also had a great experience. Try it – this reviewer must have benn paid by some competition to write this report.

totm

February 24th, 2013
10:36 am

Even Becky Stein can’t make those dishes look appetizing.

Jared

February 26th, 2013
12:02 am

This blogger must work for PETA

Kelley Doyle

February 26th, 2013
1:26 pm

Took my family in for dinner and we all love it! I personally had the Chilean Sea Bass and it was like butter – absolutely amazing and leaves me dreaming of more! Everyone there was so nice, the chef was amazing, even came out to see how we all were doing. I will definitely be returning and highly recommending it to anyone I can think of! Absolutely the best there is!!

Bernard

February 26th, 2013
3:26 pm

I’ve been there several times and the food is great and affordable. I really like the salmon, calamari, and the steak. Excellent service. Great atmosphere. However it kind of sucks that I have to step outside to smoke. I recommend at least checking it out if you are ever in the area.

CK

February 26th, 2013
3:33 pm

We went 5 times to the Sea Bass restaurant. The restaurant surrounded with exited energy and was comfortably full with satisfied diners. The food at Sea Bass kitchen are rich, flavors are well balanced, and the dishes are executed perfectly. Well done Sea Bass! I would highly recommend Sea Bass kitchen restaurant to anyone, period. I know I will be back soon.

Kareem T.

February 26th, 2013
3:34 pm

Great restaurant, with awesome ambiance and above standard customer service. I took my wife, who is a tough critic and she absolutely loved it. Happy wife, happy life and she was extremely happy about the sea bass.

Mary Cullen

February 26th, 2013
8:01 pm

It sounds like this reviewer had a pre-existing polital agenda even before going to Sea Bass. I always thought food reviews were about the food presented and not a political agenda.I have eaten at Sea Bass and had a Great meal as did my whole family. We each ate something different to get the full taste and each meal was wonderful. Grandkids ate off of everyone plate and loved it. The owner was present and it felt like we were in his home, everyone around us was raving about the food and every table was full. I certainly will recommend this restauranrt to all my friends.