By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Apr 18, 2011 at 9:02 AM

What would you expect from a restaurant that calls itself Screaming Tuna?

Fish, of course, and probably some attitude. Maybe food served in a high decibel environment.

The newly opened Screaming Tuna Sushi & Asian Bistro on the river in the Fifth Ward will surprise you. It's an elegantly chic and upscale casual fine-dining restaurant that is making a bold entrance into the local fusion cuisine scene.

Consider a teriyaki lamb chop ($30) marinated in a soy vinaigrette, mustard seeds and rosemary, and glazed with teriyaki gravy. Or a market price lobster tail that is steamed, then fried and served in a ginger cognac sauce.

The appetizer menu includes a tuna pizza ($11) consisting of a grilled flour tortilla topped with sashimi style ahi tuna, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and wasabi aioli. And the Screaming Tuna is one of the few Milwaukee restaurants where you will find an $80 entree, a full pound of Kobe beef, divided and prepared in three different ways.

There is no need to worry about nuclear irradiation in the Japanese style of high-end meat. Screaming Tuna is using Australian Wagyu beef, which is known for its tenderness and intense marbling. Half of the 16-ounce portion is grilled, a quarter is prepared in the Korean marinated Kalbi style on a skewer, and the rest is served tartare as a take on Thai-Laotian cuisine.

The restaurant is following two hot culinary trends, molecular cooking and sous-vide cooking. The former uses infusions and science to create exotic new foods. The latter heats meat and poultry to precise temperatures throughout the entire portions, resulting in unusual tenderness and the retention of moisture.

Siam Saeng, a sushi chef who began his restaurant career as a server at The King and I in Downtown Milwaukee, is the man behind all of this. Saeng, who is Thai-American, learned the art of preparing sushi while working at Ichiban Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar on the East Side, and he began experimenting with fusion cuisine while operating his own catering business.

"I tried all kinds of wild things, and my customers often liked them," he said while recently chatting in his new bistro. Despite that, Saeng and his younger brother, Koson, opened a more traditional sushi and Japanese restaurant at West Point Plaza on Bluemound Road in Brookfield in 2004.

Yokoso developed a loyal following, but the planned razing of the mall for a new Von Maur department store caused the Saengs to close it at the end of February. That has enabled them to devote their full attention to Screaming Tuna, which has been on their back burner for several years.

The new restaurant is on the ground floor of The Point on the River, the large condo development at the fork of the Milwaukee and Menomonee rivers. The real estate project has been through a series of financial and legal difficulties, and that delayed Screaming Tuna from opening until now, according to Koson Saeng. Siam Saeng and business partner Alex Foracappa own the eatery.

Screaming Tuna is next door to the space formerly occupied by the late and lamented Cafe Luna, and it has a uniquely spectacular view of Downtown Milwaukee. The restaurant seats about 150, and a 1,000-sq. foot private outdoor patio along the riverwalk will accommodate fresh air dining. A 20-seat private room for parties and business meetings, and a spacious urban-contemporary bar are also part of the package.

Located a block southwest of the Water Street bridge, Screaming Tuna offers valet parking, a likely necessity for its densely packed neighborhood.

The Saeng brothers often work side by side at the sushi bar, where they encourage conversation with their customers. Everything is made from scratch to order, with individual tastes accommodated.

"We take trends from New York and Napa Valley, and we play with them on our own," Koson Saeng said. "We may use Latin, Mediterranean, Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese flavors."

Traditional maki such as salmon and tuna rolls are offered, but you can also order sesame tempura battered chicken or flash fried spicy tuna with tempura flakes and sweet eel sauce. Maki, nigiri and sashimi prices run from $5 to $9 for two pieces.

Speciality rolls ($14 to $18) contain such non-traditional ingredients as crawfish salad, basil oil, and barbecue and hollandaise sauces. A Kobe beef roll includes avocado, scallions, shitake mushrooms and tempura asparagus with the meat. Yellowtail sushi may be infused with a jalapeno sauce, and scallops can be infused with a sweet chili garlic sauce.

Most of the restaurant's entrees are $20 to $30, but you can order a Brazilian style Churrasco platter containing pork tenderloin, rib-eye beef, sous-vide chicken and andouille sausage for $42.

Soups, salads and ceviches are available for $4 to $9. A lunch menu, consisting mostly of sushi and bento boxes, runs from $8.95 to $14.95.

The bistro's bar features an extensive wine list, craft and Asian beers, and about 20 sake choices. Screaming Tuna is currently open every day except Sunday, but it will go to a seven day a week schedule by Mother's Day.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.