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Volume 14, Issue 28 ~ July 13 - July 19, 2006

Dinner at Yellowfin Steak & Fish House

All the ingredients are right, but the loud, lively bar overwhelms the fine restaurant

It’s been three and a half years since Yellowfin Steak and Fish House opened its trendy doors in Edgewater. Time enough to generate a loyal clientele and become the easy answer of where to meet for a drink after work. Located on the banks of the South River, Yellowfin takes full advantage of sweeping river views and radiant sunsets. Wall-to-wall windows provide the canvas for diners in the main dining room, spacious enough to accommodate 150, as well as the popular lounge, which can pack them in (up to 80) during happy hour.

The girls planned a mid-week visit to Yellowfin. Passing on any given evening, you may notice the packed parking lot and side streets. Valet parking is available but proved unnecessary this night, as we were all successful in finding convenient parking. A weekend night might necessitate the use of the parking attendant.

The main dining room is open and spacious with a California contemporary flare and emphasis on the views. What our group found curious was the placement of the tables, which are all perpendicular to the wall of windows, which means that nobody actually faces the water. We figured it was Yellowfin’s way of not putting anyone at a disadvantage; it also eliminates the need for sunglasses during the bold sunsets. Tables are spaced rather closely, especially considering the dining room was less than half full on our visit. Try to reserve a booth, which looks both comfortable and roomy. Two-tops barely allow for complete table settings — heaven forbid you add a bottle of wine or a breadbasket!

It’s best to get the objections addressed first. With the very active lounge crowd overflowing into the dining room, noise was so disruptive that it was difficult to hear conversation from across the table. Only after the bar cleared out (around 10pm) did we notice that loud music was also blasting through the central speaker system (think U2). This is not white noise; it’s just noisy. In addition, the thermostat was set rather low, perhaps as part of the ventilation system that allowed for the bar crowd to smoke without overwhelming the dining room. Regardless, it was cold.

Settled into our table, we were greeted by a friendly server, who, while busy with other tables, was unflustered by our many questions and slow pace in ordering. The paper menu, which we were told is updated daily, included the fresh fish specials. The front of the menu highlights sushi and maki rolls, appetizers, soups and salads. The back includes the daily specials, seafood, steaks, chops and salad entrees.

To begin our meal, we were faced with the enviable task of choosing from the extensive appetizer list. With its strong lean toward Asian fusion and sushi, the spicy tuna Tartare ($9), seared yellowfin tuna ($9) and crab Napoleon ($15) were hard to bypass. But we were guided by our server’s recommendation to the crab and artichoke dip ($9), described as jumbo lump crab, artichoke hearts, garlic, sherry, and cream, borsin and gruyere cheeses, served with toasted baguette slices. The dip was perfect to share and offered mild flavors, although some considered it too cheesy (a “cheese bomb”).

For entrees, all three gals couldn’t resist the seafood specials, including yellowtail flounder stuffed with crab imperial with mornay sauce, garlic-and-chive mashed potatoes and steamed brocolini ($24) —which, not surprisingly, was judged “too rich.” Another went with the Asian-spiced, pan-seared yellowfin tuna served over goma wakame (seaweed salad) and sided with futomaki, fat sushi rolls ($23). While the portion was generous and flavorful, the Asian spices were fierier than anticipated. The final selection was the blackened and pan-seared Canadian salmon ($25) served over linguine tossed in lobster-infused cream sauce topped with miniature lobster tails (prawns) and grilled asparagus — another nice fish and flavor mélange, although the noodles were on the mushy side. No complaints on portion control here. Two of us left with lunch for the next day.

To complement our meal, we chose a nice pinot noir from Oregon, a 2004 Erath ($33). A very pleasant wine (even with the screw top) that worked well with the different flavors of our three fishes. The wine list at Yellowfin is a real treat with most wines reasonably priced in the $20-to-$30 range. There is a variety of wines by the glass, and some are from rare and special vineyards, such as Plumpjack. General manager Kevin Gersonde is rightly proud of his wine list and the reasonable pricing; he wants to give liquor stores a run for their money, he said. If you are a wine lover and looking for a great deal, I strongly recommend a visit to Yellowfin on Monday night when they host half-bottles with any entree.

Another popular special at Yellowfin is happy hour, which offers half-price appetizers at the bar — a great deal. It’s so popular that it’s offered seven days a week. Obviously the management is on to something here, but maybe that’s why our group walked away feeling that the dining room was something of an after-thought. Yellowfin has all the right ingredients to be a fine restaurant but suffers from a split personality — with the bar winning.

Yellowfin Steak and Fish House: 2840 Solomons Island Road, Edgewater: 410-573-1333.

Restaurant observer and Bay Weekly sales and marketing manager Lisa Edler Knoll, a.k.a. Gabby Crabcakes, returns each month with a new Girls’ Night Out.

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