Just a few blocks from Benjamin’s Steakhouse, its little sister, The Sea Fire Grill, was established two years ago in Midtown East. It serves modern American fare at much more reasonable prices than those in the same neighborhood.
The sleek interior—a smart blend of sea and land—with tile floors, shimmering blue lighting, and mirrored accents, gives the space a modern edge while the main dining room takes cues from a classic steakhouse with dark wood floors, wainscoting, and a marble fireplace.
The kitchen is under the helm of the talented executive chef Ted Pryor, an avid fisherman who has harbored an adoration for food since his childhood. He had the fortune to have lived in France at a young age. There he became enamored of French cuisine and technique and obtained his culinary degree from Ecole Ritz Escoffier in Paris. He later worked in renowned kitchens such as La Goulue, Les Halles, and Opia.
But it is here at the Sea Fire Grill that Pryor is finally able to freely express his love and knowledge of fish. Some of the dishes, while keeping the integrity of the ingredients, can lift the diner to a state of elation.
Pryor remains loyal to basic culinary principles and crafts imaginative dishes with comforting flavors and blends ingredients with the goodness of the earth and that of the sea.
“I’ve been a fisherman my whole life and have spent my summers in Maine, Cape Cod, and Florida as I was growing up, which allowed me to get into the water and learn about fish firsthand,” he said. “I now have my own home in upstate New York and I dedicate a lot of time to fishing lake trout, which can be truly delicious.”
A Mastery of Seafood
The menu features dishes made with seasonal and fresh ingredients and, of course, the catch of the day. Like a magnet I was drawn to the hearty, smooth-as-silk and richly flavored Lobster Bisque flamed with sherry ($13). I was so satisfied and happy with it that I ignored my temptation to try the jumbo Crab Cake with red pepper coulis ($16) and the Steak Salad with my favorite aged Stilton cheese ($29).
The unusual spread of smoked fish pâté and mascarpone at the table was an original that I couldn’t seem to get enough of. My friend and I asked for seconds but we had to move on to the other surprising dishes that arrived.
We shared the Shrimp Salad ($17) made with giant prawns. It was simply prepared, without the fuss—and addictive. These massive prawns had a firm yet tender texture with a smooth, sweet, and buttery flavor that demanded you just close your eyes and savor every bite.
My friend finally decided to delve into the Organic Scottish Salmon ($29) with tiny French lentils and parsnips purée. This fish, meaty and flavorful, made a superb accompaniment to the delicate, fluffy, and light parsnip.
The scallops were a perfect example of the chef’s mastery of seafood. The refined and delicate Pan Roasted Scallops delicately placed in a pond of beurre blanc dotted with caviar was elegant and heavenly. Scallops are more demanding to prepare than one would think. They require tender care and perfect execution. Yet these melted in the mouth, taking me back to the kitchen of my Parisian friend’s mother, an excellent French cook who would prepare the scallops we brought from the market that day.
Some of the side dishes, like the very fresh Spinach Risotto and Roasted Mushrooms (each $8) are good choices.
The dessert menu, a reflection of the season, is worth exploring as well. We shared the ginger cake, which I liked but my friend thought a bit dry.
There is also an exciting selection of wine and cocktails to enjoy.
The Sea Fire Grill
158 East 48th St.
Lunch: Monday–Friday 11:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Dinner: Daily 4:00 p.m.–10:45 p.m.