Ruth's Chris Steak House has the potential to offer a perfect dining experience -- wonderful, cozy ambience, excellent service and great food.
However, our recent visit was egregiously flawed. In an establishment with the word "steak" in its name, half of my filet mignon was too well-done.
And at a restaurant with prices like those of Ruth's Chris, perfection is not just something you hope for. You demand it.
My boyfriend and I called the restaurant at 8 p.m. on a Friday and were told that the earliest we could be seated was 9.
The restaurant is partitioned into cozy dining alcoves, and we were seated in one, but unfortunately for us, it was in a busy spot next to a door. So I suggest making a reservation if you want a good table.
We loved the ambience, the maritime-themed pictures and maps, and dim lighting. And our waiter was helpful, friendly and quick with water refills despite being busy.
We began by sharing the barbecued shrimp appetizer ($9.95), which was sauteed New Orleans style in white wine, butter, garlic and spices.
We got five huge and succulent shrimp swimming in a delicious sauce that made an excellent dip for bread.
That great start made the long wait for our entrees excruciating. We kept watching waiters glide by us with trays of lobster and sizzling steaks.
My partner decided that since we were in Maryland, he should opt for seafood. So he chose one of the delectable specials our waiter rattled off -- baked rockfish topped with jumbo lump crab meat and a creamy lemon butter sauce ($24.95). He got a huge portion of fish crammed with crab that was superb.
I had the filet mignon ($24.95), which I wanted medium-well. The waiter said it would be butterfly-broiled so that the inside would be pink, which was fine. The part that wasn't fine was that, oddly, while half of my steak was wonderful, tender on the inside and very flavorful, the other half had clearly been left on the broiler too long, which made for slightly tough chewing.
We split mashed potatoes with a hint of roasted garlic ($4.50), which was good, and fresh asparagus with hollandaise ($6.95), which was an overloaded and delicious portion with the sauce on the side.
By the time we plowed through these meals, we were stuffed but craved something sweet. Our waiter recommended the creme brulee ($5.25), the Creole egg custard topped with fresh berries.
The creme brulee was one of the best I've had, with its oh-so-thin crust and heavenly sweet custard.
We finished with two selections from the restaurant's dessert coffees. I had the King Kong Coffee ($6.25), coffee with banana liqueur, creme of cocoa and dried banana flakes. My partner had the Nutty Cappuccino ($6.25), with Baileys Irish Cream, Frangelico and whipped cream.
Both made for a wonderful end to a great meal -- apart from the steak.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
Where: 301 Severn Ave., Annapolis 410-990-0033
Hours: Dinner, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Prices: Appetizers, $4.95-$11.95; entrees, $21.95-$31.95
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Diners
Rating: *** 3/4
Ratings: * culinary wasteland **** culinary heaven
Pub Date: 2/04/99