A refreshing ceviche of slickly tender Mano de Leon Baja scallops was sweet and spicy, with fresh orange segments and serrano peppers. Smoked squid, none too smoky, were inflamed by Korean hot sauce, which obscured the clever accompaniments of ham, piquillo and padrón peppers, preserved lemons, and charred lettuce. We also ordered a side of gnocchi, which proved heavy and doughy.
The wine list is scant compared to the vast array of craft beers, but we found a BTL Viognier Roussanne ($38) to enjoy with our seafood.
Sea Rocket’s physical plant has been subtly upgraded along with the cooking. The dining room now has corrugated soundproofing on the ceiling and sound baffles hanging aslant, reducing the noise level from the migraine-painful din of the restaurant’s earlier days to merely lively. (The eclectic music is sweet, too — old reggae, antique rock, etc.) Service is friendly and competent, much improved from the restaurant’s first few months. Whew, finally I can eat here again.
The basic difference between Top of the Market and Sea Rocket — aside from price, view, and ambience — is one of past versus future. The cooking at the Top is lightly creative but fundamentally conventional, with nothing to scare Midwestern tourists. At Sea Rocket, we have an adventurous chef cooking for the adventurers of North Park. Who knows what sort of revolution might come out of this? ■
Top of the Market
★★★1/2 (Very Good to Excellent)
750 North Harbor Drive, Downtown, 619-232-3474; thefishmarket.com
HOURS: Lunch daily 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.; dinner 4:00–9:30 p.m. Monday–Thursday, until 10:00 p.m. Friday–Saturday.
PRICES: Seafood bar $12.25–$14.75; chilled seafood platter $35 to serve four; starters $10–$17; soups and salads $5–$13; entrées $19–$59.
CUISINE & BEVERAGES: Seasonal seafood (menu changes daily), plus several grilled Prime meats. Wide-ranging wine list at high markups. Full bar.
PICK HITS: Kumamoto oysters; chilled seafood platter; foie gras; seared sea scallops; sashimi; Dover sole; brioche-crusted spiny lobster. Other good bets: mesquite-grilled sea scallops; crab-crusted mahi mahi; grilled Prime rib-eye.
NEED TO KNOW: Reserve, especially for the heated, enclosed patio with close-up water view. Elevator available. Business casual dress (no flip-flops). Can be noisy, especially at tables near exhibition kitchen.
Sea Rocket Bistro
★★★1/2 (Very Good to Excellent)
3382 30th Street (at Upas), North Park, 619-255-7049; searocketbistro.com
HOURS: 5:00–10:00 p.m. Monday–Friday; Saturday noon–10:00 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m., dinner until 10:00 p.m.
PRICES: Starters $6–$28; tapas (bar snacks) $5; entrées $14–$18; sides $7; desserts $7.
CUISINE: Fresh sustainable seafood and vegetarian dishes in imaginative creations with local produce. Craft beer, hard cider, and mead, plus adequate, affordable wine selection; corkage $12.
PICK HITS: Whole sea urchin; black cod–liver crostini; scallop ceviche; smoked squid salad; local sardines (when in season); uni gelato dessert. Other good bets: uni crostini; fish du jour; fisherman’s stew; grass-fed burger.
NEED TO KNOW: Casual. Moderately loud. Plenty for vegetarians/vegans. Bread only by request. Small parking lot in back.