LEWISTON — Watch a chef dice, chop and roll raw fish or watch a chef play with fire.
At Sea 40, it's your pick.
The city's new Japanese restaurant opened Thursday, part sushi bar, part hibachi grill, in former Ames department store space on East Avenue. The tall ceiling has been painted black with exposed ductwork, a wall has been added with thousands of pebbles laid by hand and multicolored lights ease on and off for a big-city vibe.
There's table space for diners seeking privacy or a quick bite, manager Franki Tam said, a half-dozen seats in front of a sushi chef and a room of hibachi out back: Six tables, 20 seats and two grills each.
"You have the food, you have the entertainment also," Tam said. "The chefs will cook but they don't just cook.
"They flip the knife, they flip the eggs." Take a zucchini, dice it up. "They tell the customer, 'Open your mouth.' The ocean park, like the dolphin? Just like that."
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week, and offers takeout and lunch specials. The sushi bar has offerings like sunburn tuna sashimi, sea cevichi and chirashi. Entrees range from $13 to $22, with soup and salad. Hibachi entrees range from $13 to $28, from vegetables to twin lobster tail, with salad, soup, rice and appetizer.
Hibachi dining is family-style with parties seated together around the big tables.
"You can make a new friend," Tam said.
Between entertainment and eating, a meal in the hibachi room takes about an hour, he said. Diners pressed for time can order off the hibachi menu in the main dining room.
Extensive renovations took six months, Tam said. A large, four-sided, marble-topped bar sits just inside the entryway, with a TV view from every seat. Around Sea 40, there are beaded curtains, hanging lanterns and a man-sized Buddha, bathed in light.
Tam said the name is a nod to the address, 40 East Ave., to the menu — much of it comes from the sea — and to the future.
"In the Asian culture, water, the meaning is money," he said.
He's hoping for a successful go.
"People are coming, looking around, it's W-O-W, wow," Tam said. "They see all the decorations. A few people have asked, 'Do I think it's too high class for Lewiston?' Even in this economy, there's still a lot of people working around here."
Tam said he did plenty of research. He liked the size of the population and that there wasn't another hibachi restaurant for miles. He moved from Brooklyn, N.Y., to be manager and he's hired a staff of 15. Tam said Sea 40 is owned by a New York woman. This is her first restaurant.
"I'm very confident," Tam said. "(Maine) is beautiful, all the people are nice. Honestly, there's not too much competition."