Volume 13, Issue 51 ~ December 22 - December 28, 2005

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Getting Ready for Christmas

A night in Annnapolis shopping and noshing at W.R. Chance followed by sushi and drinks at Yin Yankee Cafe

The journeys of the girls of this column reflect not only my personal likes and interests but also those of the women I enjoy spending time with. We share a fondness for food and drink. Add to this list shopping, and our criteria for a good time emerge. Shopping for jewelry while drinking and eating makes, for these girls, a sublime experience.

In its annual effort to stimulate Christmas wishing, W.R. Chance Jewelers in historic Annapolis hosts a Ladies Night. Attracted by free-flowing wine, live music and generous noshes (this year served by Company’s Coming, the catering component of Wild Orchid Cafe), hundreds of women gathered to view the latest lines of diamonds, pearls and bling. Crab fondue, ahi tuna and platters of sweets held a captive audience.

While the girls could have easily filled up on the free bounty, we had an agenda that included a brisk jog across Main Street for a light bite of sushi at Yin Yankee Cafe.

Tucked in a small storefront at the base of Main Street, Yin Yankee is full of personality, both physically and spiritually. Calming fish tanks counter the bold paint — including neon — that decorates the space. Tables are tight and typically full. The hustle of the small sushi bar and open kitchen add to the buzz of energy.

With no waiting room and no reservations (they don’t take them), timing is critical when dining at Yin Yankee. Lucky for us this chilly evening, a table had just turned — albeit next to the busy unisex bathroom.

I’m in no position to do the menu justice, as we had already had snacks, but there was plenty to tempt. We were set to eat sushi. Nigiri, sashimi and rolls are, as usual, the choices. Yin Yankee’s sushi specials take rolls to extremes. We decided to share the Dragon Roll — crab and avocado inside with smoked eel and fish roe outside — ($15), which was huge both in size and flavor. Next time I think I’ll try the Cape St. Claire roll ($17) with tuna, salmon and cream cheese inside and smoked eel outside. Or the lobster roll ($13) with asparagus, avocado, cucumber, seaweed salad and creamy wasabi sauce.

It’s fun to just get a platter of sushi and rolls to share. But Yin Yankee’s appetizers (known as First Flavors) offer competition in the form of Shrimp and Veggie Beignets ($9), Lily’s Gingered Chicken Potstickers ($7) and Ahi Tuna Tartar ($10).

We compromised with the effervescent Thai Style Mussels ($9). The bowl came heaping high with tiny mussels in shells surrounded by a broth of lemongrass (don’t eat it, it’s just for flavor), kefir lime leaves and Thai chili. It’s a meal in itself, and one destined to comfort. Also good as a light meal or complement to sushi is a noodle bowl (udon). Wok Seared Vegetables and Udon Noodles with chicken ($14) was enjoyed by one pal.

Next time at Yin Yankee, I plan on making a full meal. Entrees tantalize with menu options including Kimono Seared Salmon ($21), Banana Leaf & Curry Whole Roast Fish (market price), Bison Strip Loin ($35) and the frequently referenced Crabchop. an Asian spin on crab cakes.

While Yin Yankee offers a full bar and extensive list of sakes and imported beer, the girls were in a wine-drinking mood this evening. I liked that the menu features one bottle of each style of wine (i.e. one pinot, one chardonnay, one plum wine). Bottles are moderately priced in the $30s. My only beef stems from a recent trend: single glasses of wine priced at $9 and $10. I’m not sure if this is some trick to justify indulging in a full bottle or just profiteering, but I find a certain injustice in the movement.

It was a fine wine, just the same, and a fine night. Nothing gets me more in the mood for Christmas shopping than shopping for myself.

Yin Yankee Cafe: 105 Main St., Annapolis; 410-268-8703.

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.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.