Located on Monroe Avenue, SEA Restaurant offers a variety of dishes native to Thailand and Vietnam. A fun fact about its name is that it’s actually an acronym, standing for ‘Southeast Asian” from which the dishes originate.

Entering the restaurant, there’s nothing special to see: The walls are pretty bare, the chairs similar to those you’d find in Douglass Dining Center. The tables are standard but it feels a bit cramped, considering there is seating for around 26 people in a small cluster of tables. There’s definitely an informal and laid-back air to the space.

Despite the average physical characteristics and setting, what stands out about the restaurant is the combination of people that make up the patronage a young couple in one corner, a group of five adults in another, a family with young children and then ourselves.

This restaurant is not bound to any one type of individual and therein lies the appeal. At SEA, you have the chance to feel a part of the community.
One thing to appreciate about fusion restaurants like this one is the way it uniquely and unexpectedly combines a range of flavors.

At SEA, a great starter is the fried squid. Much better than the fried calamari you’d see at an Italian restaurant, this dish has pieces that are fried to perfection, infused with hot red pepper in the coating. Piled on a bed of shredded lettuce and chunks of multicolored fresh peppers, it jump-starts the flavor receptors and will get your tongue wagging for multiple reasons, as good a rationale as any to try it.

As far as the main courses go, some definitely stand out from the rest. As typical to a Thai restaurant as a burger is to an American one, the pad Thai is a standard dish with a choice of chicken or pork. It also includes egg, rice noodles, onions, bean sprouts and crunchy peanuts as a garnish. This particular version is respectable, a decent portion size and well presented.

Another good option is the flat rice noodles with meat. Also served with either chicken or pork, this dish combines meat with a variety of mixed vegetables including sliced carrots, broccoli, celery and onions. The dish came out piping hot, and though the noodles were a little mushy, the flavor was spot-on. For those who like it spicy, adding some of the chili pepper sauce provided on the table is a necessity.

The steal of the evening is the pho, a noodle soup that is the true mark of originality at SEA. While other restaurants can boast similar dishes where you can select your protein and go from there the pho is a truly unique dish. The options to add to the rice noodles are diverse and range from chicken, pork and steak, to mixed vegetables and seafood along with the standard onions, scallions and cilantro. Upgrading to the extra large bowl costs only a dollar more. In all seriousness, this bowl of noodle soup was huge, and at a mere $7.50, with a side of bean sprouts and fresh basil leaves, it is definitely this week’s Best Bang For Your Buck.

In all, SEA Restaurant is a place worth trying out. While not as upscale as Golden Port Dim Sum near the Eastman School of Music SEA steps out from the rest with its various incarnations of pho definitely a must-try dish. Furthermore, the eclectic mix of people gives college students a chance to break out of the bubble in which we live and see the Rochester community. At $11 a person, including tax and tip, the prices were extremely fair and the food was well worth it.

Siegel is a member of the class of 2010.

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