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Growth spurt ; Seabar reopens in city with more room and lots of surprises

Maturity has its advantages.

Take the case of Seabar, for example. The city version, headed by Chef Mike Andrzejewski, had always been a popular sushi destination. (Another Seabar in Williamsville has closed.) But, excellent as it was, the place was limited. With no real kitchen, the menu consisted of sushi and sashimi. And the restaurant was tiny.

Now -- wave the magic wand, add a year or two -- there appears a kitchen and an additional room housing a full bar as well as extended dining space. The original sushi bar remains; there are even a few tables in the alley. (Mighty breezy in that alley.)

And, serious cook that he may be, Andrzejewski still shows off a puckish sense of humor. His Beef on Weck sushi rolls (beef filet, carpaccio, horseradish cream) and Unagi (eel) BLT roll have long been renowned; now you can also find stuff like Bourdain's Last Meal ($16) on the menu. Named in honor of Anthony Bourdain, the wise guy TV chef who loves excess -- in food as well as verbiage -- this little jobbie features marrow! Pork belly! And foie gras torchon.

Many surprises here. The Chicken and Waffles main dish ($15) has already become one of the most requested items on the new menu. Based on the iconic Southern tearoom entree, this one has a twist. The crisply fried chicken pieces perch atop tangy waffles, not sweet ones, and have a delicate onion-y flavor.

And just in case your sweet tooth starts aching, the waffles are served with maple butter and snap peas.

Another distinctive entree is the Forty Hour Beef Short Ribs ($24) and this is not a typo. The ribs (fatty, that's what they are supposed to be, shades of Bourdain) are actually cooked using the sous vide (under vacuum) method so that the meat has an incredibly velvety texture but yet remains medium rare. And after all that time passes, Andrzejewski crisps the outside quickly for a little crunch.

It had an almost pastrami-like flavor (and, by the way, a hot pastrami sandwich is actually offered at Seabar during the lunch hour). The accompanying fries were pretty good, too.

A special for the evening was the Crispy Whole Black Bass ($28). I got the last one.

Don't order this if you don't want to be the center of all eyes. The fish is huge. Served complete with its head, the bass had ultra-crunchy coating and white tender fresh flesh. It was remarkable.

What else? On occasion, there is Lobster and Shrimp Bisque ($6), smooth and delicious, dusky with the taste of shell. There are always Volcano Noodles ($12) featuring Sashimi Salad over crisp little starchy bits with red tobiko (roe) at the very top to simulate the flame.

Not to mention the Companion's favorite Cucumber Salad and Warm Oysters and Caviar ($14.50), beautifully served with the poached Nova Scotia bivalves resting on oh-so-delicate celery creme fraiche, topped with American caviar.

The dessert list, should you have room, features a Seabar Sundae based on coconut shortbread ice cream, chocolate as well as caramel sauces and -- need you ask -- softly whipped cream.

***

SEABAR    

4 stars (out of 4)    

WHERE: 475 Ellicott St. (332-2928, www.seabarsushi.com). Seabar City is all grown up. The popular sushi restaurant now boasts a kitchen, an extended dining room and a very extended menu. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa    

FAVORITE DISH: Forty Hour Beef Short Ribs    

NEEDS WORK: Food is of excellent quality.    

PRICE RANGE: Entrees from $15. Sushi Rolls from $7.    

SERVICE: Excellent    

HOURS: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner, 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.    

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes    

PARKING: On the street or in the pay lots.    

RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.     el,4 * indicates that restaurant is so new that this is a provisional rating.

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