Fisherman's Exchange piles on heaps of food at reasonable prices


Fisherman's Exchange

Where: 2025 E. Joppa Road, Carney.

Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Credit Cards: AE, CB, DC, MC, V.

Features: Seafood.

Non-smoking section? No, but staff will try to accommodate non-smokers' needs.

Call: 665-8800.

** The Fisherman's Exchange menu includes a category called "Diet Watchers." Don't be fooled.

While these five steamed or broiled entrees might be scant in calories, this is one restaurant that loves to load on the extras, and which serves dinners portioned for Bo Jackson. Venture too far away from the "Diet Watchers" list, and watch your diet skip blithely off to high-calorie hog heaven.

The Exchange, part of a chain that includes two Fisherman's Wharf restaurants as well as seafood markets, is dressier than its Carney strip-mall location might lead to you believe. With its romantic lighting and etched glass panels, it seems too decorous a place for consuming mass quantities. But that's just what you'll do, unless you exercise a little caution. We didn't.

While most of the entrees are priced in the teens, the clever management encourages pig-outs by pricing appetizers very reasonably, and providing more than enough for your money. The fried soft-shell clams ($3.95), for instance, included an entree-sized portion of crunchy strips, bursting with clam flavor. We were less enthusiastic about the overly thick seafood bisque ($2.25 cup), which was loaded with shellfish but had a generic "seafood" flavor.

With all this, not to mention French rolls and dinner salads with abundant dressings -- tangy, Caesaresque pepper-Parmesan and chunky, authentic blue cheese -- we were stuffed by the time the entrees, also ample, arrived.

My companion's choice, mesquite-grilled mako shark ($14.95), included not one but two fillets. Disappointingly, though, the flavor was insipid. Surprisingly, too, as mako is a full-flavored fish, and mesquite is usually guaranteed to add its distinctive smoky flavor to the meat.

My lobster au gratin ($17.95) was also a downer. I adore lobster, but whenever it's not simply boiled, a la Maine, it usually turns out rubbery, as it was here. And the "light cream sauce" with Parmesan was neither light nor creamy, but resembled the seafood bisque on most particulars.

Only the stately pace of our dinner got us through to dessert without popping our buttons, and only dedication to duty forced us to order Chambord cheesecake and chocolate mousse cake. Our lack of enthusiasm wasn't the fault of the desserts, though. The cheesecake was especially good, with its soft yielding texture and ripe raspberry flavor.

Our experience at Fisherman's Exchange could have been better, but I suspect faulty ordering was partly the culprit here. It certainly was a bountiful dinner, and the doggie bags we toted home provided another one the next night.

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