Monday, July 24, 2000

Roll 'em ...

Posted on Mon, Jul 24, 2000 at 4:00 AM

If location is everything, Seito Sushi has it made. Located next to the Regal Winter Park Village 20 complex, Seito enjoys a constant flow of theater patrons walking past its long, rectangular dining room. A cynical restaurant owner might use this captive audience as an excuse to serve inferior food. Lord knows the four yuppie rubes who sat next to me, joking about this immaculate and stylish establishment as a "hole in the wall" deserved just that. But wiser minds have prevailed and, instead, Seito turns out sushi every bit as fresh and well-prepared as downtown's longtime favorite Sushi Hatsu.

Like Sushi Hatsu, Seito bypasses the sometimes challenging culinary aspirations of I-Drive's excellent Hamimasuki to target the casual diner. The menu is brief, focusing on sushi, sashimi and a handful of teriyakis and tempuras -- nothing except wasabi could potentially frighten tastebuds. With the luxury of two visits, my dining partner and I were able to roam Seito's menu. For starters, there's an "octopus salad" ($5.95), a small plate of sashimi-style octopus flavored with a vinegar-soy sauce -- very simple but perfect. Also sampled was a seaweed salad ($4.95), colored a bright relish-green and nicely flavored with lemon sauce.

Meat fans will enjoy starting with "beef negi maki" ($5.95), thinly sliced sirloin grilled and wrapped around green onions and bean sprouts. Like others on the menu, this dish comes with a garnish of leafy lettuce that seems somewhat out of place.

Next up, a lovely salmon teriyaki featuring twin fillets in a rich teriyaki sauce, flavored sweetly instead of too salty. Although presented as entrees, these teriyaki dishes should be considered as a side order, for a change of pace during the otherwise all-fish repast.

Seito's sushi menu offers all the usual suspects prepared with care and presented gracefully. Of special note is a "burduck root and dakuhan roll" ($4.25).The sushi chef couldn't explain "burdock" much past "a tuber," so he handed us a sample of the small, slightly spicy carrotlike root, which produced a wonderfully different texture and taste.

One of Seito's more interesting choices are the "boat combinations," prearranged meals of several items for two to six diners, served in a large wooden boat. We sampled the "love boat" ($34.95) full of teriyaki chicken, seafood and vegetable tempura, and kalbi (beef short ribs), followed by a small plate of a half dozen or so chirashi sushi items and a California roll. Our enjoyment from the "boat" was squashed when it showed up a half hour after ordering with many of the hot items rendered lukewarm.

Other than this oversight, Seito Sushi is easy to recommend and a welcome addition to the sushi scene.


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