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Savannah offers Southern food, French techniques


Savannah, the new restaurant in the Admiral Fell Inn, is for people who like to think about food, talk about food, discuss the pros and cons of a wine with the waiter and linger over a meal once it's been ordered.

If you like knowing that the chef herself made the blackberry vinaigrette for your salad from a whole flat of blackberries, this is the restaurant for you.

If you enjoy getting the provenance of the stone-milled grits used the speckled grit cakes, pick up the phone and make your reservation now.

The nice folks who run Savannah are justifiably proud of their food; they just may tell you more about it than you want to know.

For those of you who simply want to sit down and have a good meal, Savannah offers something too: an appealing combination comfort food, otherwise known as Southern cooking, prepared with French techniques, which translates as less overcooking, lighter sauces and more fresh herbs.

But don't get too excited about the lighter part: The short, flaky biscuits and buttery corn bread alone are worth the trip, and you probably won't be able to resist them. Or the spoon bread. Or the coconut creme brule for dessert.

Don't be put off by the entrance to this basement restaurant, which is basically a dirty stairwell. Once inside you'll find a series of attractive, low-ceilinged dining rooms, evoking the relaxed mood of a Southern city with their blond wood furniture, handsome table settings, palm fronds and leaf-patterned carpet.

Nothing on Savannah's menu will strike you as having been placed there for its shock value, so if innovation is everything, this isn't the restaurant for you.

Forget your waistline and indulge in the Low Country crab bisque, full of butter, cream, sherry and lump crab meat. Have the fork-tender sweetbreads in puff pastry and a delicate madeira sauce.

Yes, there is fried chicken; this is Southern cooking, after all. But there are also tiny, tender quail stuffed with corn bread in a chic little bourbon sauce.

Less indulgent dishes can be just as good: clams in an intriguing broth of wine, garlic and a dice of andouille sausage. (Savannah's Southern leanings extend to Cajun.) A salad of smoked salmon and field greens with a sherry vinaigrette. A seafood "perlau" over spicy red rice. Nouvelle collard greens spiced with fire, cooked just long enough so that each leaf retains its character.

Not everything lives up to its billing. Cornmeal-coated oysters with lemon-caper mayonnaise were under-cooked, with a pale, flabby crust. I had better fried oysters at the Woman's Industrial Exchange the next day.

A "juniper-scented pan-roasted pork chop" was simply a large, uninteresting piece of meat, although its rosemary pan gravy was superb and I loved the grit cakes and haricots verts that accompanied it.

The sweet potatoes with the quail were so over-candied they tasted like dessert.

And speaking of dessert, a pear and almond bread pudding with homemade vanilla ice cream would have been out of this world if the almond flavoring hadn't dominated it. (Desserts in general, though, are superb. Don't miss the aforementioned coconut creme brule.)


888 South Broadway

(410) 522-2195

Major credit cards

Open Monday through Thursday for lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., for dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m., Friday until 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday for brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., for dinner 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers, $4-$6; entrees, $13-$19

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