Ahead of its time but coasting


Also, in the review of Stixx Cafe that appeared in Thursday's Live section, the owner's name was incorrect. Kang Yi took over the restaurant in May.

The Sun regrets the error.

Contrary to popular belief, Citronelle chef Michel Richard didn't introduce California cuisine to Baltimore. Tzu Yang did.

Tzu Yang, an owner of Kawasaki and a partner in the city's two Uncle Lee's restaurants, is also the owner of Stixx Cafe in Pikesville. From the moment it opened in early 1990, Stixx sported a casual-chic California decor and specialized in a cuisine that emphasized fresh vegetables and fish and simple grills, all with Pacific Rim and Southwestern overtones.

Sounds currently trendy, doesn't it? Stixx was just five years ahead of its time.

I figured business must be booming now that the rest of us have caught up, but not so -- at least not on a weeknight. The sleek contemporary dining room with its tinted windows no longer seems quite so sleek. And what are these paper doily place mats doing here anyway? But it's still a pleasant place to have a Sonoma Caesar Salad, say, or Santa Barbara Shrimp.

Probably the biggest change Stixx has made since it opened is to start serving sushi, including vegetarian sushi. In fact, vegetarians will find plenty to suit them on this menu, including a pizza-like grilled flatbread with pesto, spinach, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes; fettuccine a la Stixx; and stir-fried lemon grass and vegetables.

It's a restaurant with plenty of potential. Too bad the results were lackluster the night we were there.

Black bean and rice soup came thick, underseasoned and barely room temperature. The exotic-sounding "grilled Black Tiger shrimp in teriyaki sauce" were small and unassuming. Grilled salmon with red pepper and caper salsa featured a nice, fresh fillet. But it wasn't sauced with the promised salsa. Instead, two metal cups arrived, one containing the red pepper and caper salsa that was supposed to be on the salmon, the other the black bean salsa that was supposed to be on the mahi mahi.

And then, after the waitress talked us into the house-specialty dessert, grilled bananas and honey-dipped pineapple, she came back to say they didn't have any bananas.

On the other hand, crab dumplings were a small work of art on the plate and tasted as good as they looked. Stixx's flatbread/pizza is excellent; next time I'll try it with the smoked duck. And for those of you who like a little meat but not the manly serving you usually get when you eat out, there's the tamari mesquite -- slices of smoky-grilled flank steak with fresh steamed vegetables and new potatoes.

Stixx Cafe

1496 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville

(410) 484-7787

Hours: For lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; for dinner Monday through Thursday 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10:30 p.m.

Credit cards: Major

Prices: Appetizers, $4.95-$6.95; entrees, $6.95-$17.95

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