Chart House: One More Good Reason to Go
by Gabby Crabcakes
I'll admit - presented with an offer that's too good to refuse - I'm likely to be first in line. Such was the case recently when I received an invitation to attend a preview five-course dinner at the Annapolis Chart House promoting South Pacific seafood. No strings. All right, maybe they thought they might be able to rustle some media coverage in the process. While I made no promises, I had been planning some research in their direction in the near future.
Part of a chain of 50+ similarly themed restaurants located throughout the US, the Annapolis (specifically, The Maritime Republic of Eastport) Chart House has thrived quietly for 20 years (their anniversary is next month). The site and scenery are as nice as you'll find in our area. Wall-to-wall windows provide beautiful views of City Dock and the Annapolis Harbor. While drawn to the views, I found the interior decor also quite pleasing. High-vaulted ceilings with lots of wood and nautical accouterments are warm yet not overwhelming. The main dining room seats up to 250, while the laid-back lounge, for drinks and lighter fare, has 30+ smaller tables, leather club chairs, a bar and a wood-burning fire place.
The gist of the promotion (which runs from Oct. 13 through Nov. 10) is highlighting fish from Hawaii and the South Pacific which are hook-and-line (not net) caught and overnight shipped. Once received by the restaurant, the selections of the evening are served in one of three ways - miso glazed, macadamia nut crust or ginger crust. The customer decides which preparation with which fish. Prices, depending on the fish, run around $19.95.
Upon arrival, my editor and I were led to a lovely window table where we were greeted by the manager, who gave us an overview of our menu and introduced us to our server, who was more than accommodating and informative.
Famous for their upscale salad bar ($3.95 accompanying an entree; $12.95 on its own), we were spared the effort of self-service with a table-side prepared spinach salad (all ingredients came from the salad bar). This salad can also be ordered a la carte ($5.25). We used restraint, not eating the large serving, which could have been a meal on its own, especially when paired with the crusty wheat and honey/molasses bread (served with garden butter, $2.95). Best not to fill up, because more was on its way.
What followed were three entree servings presented in rapid succession (with commentary, of course). First, miso-glazed mahi mahi with mango, papaya and honeydew sauce. Served with coconut ginger rice, this presentation matched perfectly with the moist and flaky Hawaiian mahi mahi.
Opah was the fish matched with the macadamia nut crust. Another Hawaiian fish, opah - also known as moonfish - can weigh up to 200 pounds which may account for its filet-like consistency. While thick, it also was moist and tender. It was marinated in coconut milk and served with peanut sauce, mango relish and coconut ginger rice. The nutty crust and peanut sauce made this a much heartier entree but quite yummy.
Our third fish course was ginger-crusted lehi complemented with Szechuan vegetables and noodles with a miso sauce. Both my editor and I agreed that this was our least favorite dish. We couldn't decide if it was a kitchen error (overcooking), a poor flavor combination, a tough fish - or over-filled eaters. We weren't leaving hungry.
As part of the promotion a special dessert, panna cotta, was our final course. This creamy coconut custard - topped with mango, papaya, pineapple and honeydew - made for a nice light ending to an otherwise gluttonous feast.
All in all, if you enjoy sampling fresh native fish from regions that are out of your reach, this is a fun and tasty way to culturize your palate. However, I don't recommend three servings at once.
Now, in all fairness, knowing that my objectivity might be in question as the recipient of such special attention, I returned to the Chart House a few nights later to sample the lounge menu. While the view was as beautiful as I remembered, our service was less than sublime. Our sandwiches - blackened chicken with Gruyere cheese, chipolte aioli, peppers and onions ($7.95) - and the prime rib with sautéed onions and creamed horseradish ($9.50) were tasty and filling served on a platter with beer-battered fries. However, they were presented unceremoniously. Actually, we were somewhat forgotten and had to flag down a server to replenish condiments and beverage. Oh well, no more queen for a day.
And then, of course, there was the matter of the bill
300 Second Street
Proprietors: Chart House Enterprises, Inc., Chicago, IL
Reason to go: Beautiful views, pleasant ambiance and opportunity to sample the flavors of the South Pacific.
Something to think about: While the regular menu is chock full of great dishes, this special promotion is only around a few more weeks.
| Issue 42 |
Volume VII Number 42
October 21-27 1999
New Bay Times
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