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Crush in Seaside: Small Plates, Big Tastes

December 3, 2010 by admin

I know they serve hard liquor at many Seaside restaurants, but when I think Seaside, my mind generally runs to thoughts of wine. If you share that mindset, then you may already have tried Crush, a wine bar, small plate and sushi establishment in the heart of Seaside.

By “heart,” I mean right on Central Square, which future generations will no doubt refer to as The Old Quarter. We ate there on a slightly cool night, just before the Halloween weekend.

Crush has inside and outside seating. The outside seating is under a canopy, prettily decorated with lights and warmed with portable heaters. We sat indoors, which has a bistro-ish look, complete with long bar, high tables and wine bottles all over.

The walls are decorated with wine-themed stuff, along with posters advertising area art and cultural events. There's a large blackboard on which are chalked the wine specials of the day, available by the glass (a six-ounce pour, which is a fair-sized slug of juice). There's plenty more wine—American, French, German, Spanish, Italian, etc.—on the menu, available by the bottle, as well as beers and soft drinks.

Our server brought us a menu, inquired after our beverage needs, and left us to look over the food. Crush offers lunch and dinner. There's sushi, and small plates of meats, fish, chicken and vegetables. A meal can be assembled by mixing and matching, or diners can just order at will and graze while they drink. The latter seems to be a popular way to go, and Crush offers live music to keep late-nighters entertained.

We ordered a sushi roll and three small plates, roughly the equivalent of a two-course meal for each of us. The roll was filled with savory barbecued eel, cucumbers, with a sweet and tangy orange and soy-based sauce. It appeared to be two rolls, actually, sliced into bite-sized pieces and served with ginger and wasabi paste. My friend got asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham, with a preserved lemon aioli sauce. Both were a good start, and the ham was a crisp, smoky and salty contrast to the asparagus (my favorite green vegetable).

The server will bring your plates out in any order you like, or all at once if you prefer, so if you intend some plates to serve as starters and others as a main course, just let the kitchen know. They seem ready to please.

Our next round of plates was more substantial—a flat iron steak with arugula and roasted pepper shallot jam, and lump crab cakes with Asian slaw and sriracha aioli. The steak was medium rare (more to the side of rare), sliced into strips, and arrayed next to a bed of arugula, with the jam on top. The jam was fairly hot, but worked well with the greens and chewy meat. The crab cakes (two) had plenty of sweet crabmeat, and the slaw had a vinegar-based dressing that cut through the richness of the aioli, also somewhat spicy with sriracha. Overall, everything was nicely balanced, both as to flavor and texture.

Other choices were various sushi rolls of crab, tuna, shrimp, salmon, soft shell crab and scallops. There are also salad plates of bibb lettuce, spinach and marinated asparagus, hearts of romaine with gorgonzola, peanut crusted fried green tomatoes, goat cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers, seared ahi tuna with seaweed salad, braised beef short ribs, crostini with hummus and chorizo sausage, crab and corn bisque, fried coconut shrimp, pan seared scallops, and papas bravas potatoes served cubed and fried with sriracha aioli. The plates are dressed and garnished with assorted meats, cheeses and condiments like honey butter, avocado cream, roasted pepper, vanilla bean and mango, making for highly flavored, decoratively presented bites.

There are three desserts—Abita root beer float, lemon cream tart with fresh berries, and zeppole, fried doughnuts with chocolate sauce. We got the latter. Three steaming hot, dense doughnuts came out, sitting in a pool of dark chocolate. The taste reminded me for all the world of my mother's Christmas coffee cake—a very fond memory. The outsides are sweet and crunchy; inside it's rich and buttery. The chocolate is almost not necessary, but only almost.

Crush is essential Seaside—romantic, simple but elegant, and nice to look at. It would be a fine place to take a break from the coming holiday crush—I mean, rush.

review by Bruce Collier, The Beachcomber

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