You walk into Seiyo and you see a divider made of green Bordeaux-shaped wine bottles stuck into vertical pipes. If walls could talk, this one would talk about long nights of soaking off labels and getting the tough ones with a razor-blade knife and a pot scrubber. Seiyo began as a retail beer-and-wine store, then added a sushi bar. This leads to an interesting situation in which, even with a $10 corkage fee, one can drink some interesting wine at almost half the typical restaurant price.
THAT’S A WRAP: Volcano maki and friends.
The catch is that the menu of sushi and salads — there’s almost no cooked food or red meat — doesn’t go with red wine, period, and it barely goes with many whites. Sushi works pretty well with sparklers (which I didn’t see) and with beer (of which there are some very unusual offerings), but the unbottling fee for beer is not so favorable unless you are dividing a large bottle of, say, Belgian lambic. Wine by the glass is, at least so far, not on the menu, and what’s served when you order a glass of white ($6.99) doesn’t inspire. It comes in a teacup and is semisweet.
So, you have to go to Seiyo with a wine-drinking crowd, and probably one that likes spicy whites like Alsatians, sauvignon blancs, and certain chardonnays. That said, the sushi and sashimi are very, very good. So you could simply enjoy Seiyo as a stylish but small and personable spinoff of Fugakyu, and never drink a thing. Or you could view it as a novel kind of wine bar that happens to have some fun sushi. It has also done some terrific things with salads, all using that fabulous Japanese-restaurant dressing that looks like Russian dressing but tastes like ginger.
The tables are made of some kind of composition pine that looks almost like zebrawood, and there’s a cute rack of metal chopsticks on every one (and a fork, no problem, if you ask). A long high table is in the center of the small room, and it promotes a little mixing. Back to the salads: tofu salad ($3.50) is long strips of silken tofu (great tasting if hard to chopstick) on iceberg with the above-mentioned killer dressing. Tuna yukke salad ($7.25) and salmon yukke salad ($6.95) are four or five slices of sashimi-grade fish just seared and spiced on one edge, over field greens and strips of red and yellow peppers. With the same gingery dressing, these are terrific. A seaweed salad ($4.50) had the usual beautiful, translucent shreds of green and jade, flavored with sesame, sesame seeds, and a few flecks of red pepper.
Moving into maki: I actually found a simple asparagus maki ($3.75) to be a great combination with or without wine. The subtle flavors of the undercooked asparagus, sushi rice, and wrapping of algal seaweed (nori) made a spectrum out of each turret. Among the more popular combinations, Volcano maki ($12.95) was a row of eight wraps centered on avocado and phony crab, then rice, topped with spicy cooked salmon, mayonnaise, and flying-fish roe. These peppery combos are great with beer, harder on wine. Crazy maki ($7.75) is wrapped around fried-shrimp tempura, with sushi rice, cucumber, avocado, and spicy mayonnaise around the inside-out wrap of rice and nori. Dragon maki ($10.95) is more or less the same thing, with an additional topping of broiled eel — perhaps to make the dragon’s scales, certainly for extra flavor. Orders tend to be combined on pretty wood platters.