You can have it all -- or most of it


The Cosmopolitan Bar and Grill has it all. OK, it doesn't have great french fries or a reliable non-smoking area, but more about those later. What it does have is a splendid sense of style, an array of martinis, a menu that both works for a casual meal and offers some more serious delights, pleasantly attentive service and a sublime bread pudding.

In a way it's a shame that this is a bar; the requisite TVs clash with the light-hearted chic of the downstairs room (although everyone at the bar is drinking blush-pink cosmopolitans from martini glasses, which gives the place a certain funky glamour).

Walls are sponge-painted a warm gold, the sky -- er, ceiling -- is blue, and charming moon and star light fixtures glitter on an exposed brick wall. A large, wavy-edged mirror opens up the narrow room a bit. The upstairs dining room, surrounded with a starry night mural, is equally appealing.

At a restaurant that offers more different martinis than appetizers, you don't expect great food, but the Cosmopolitan's clams posillipo come pretty darn close. The mollusks are fat and dreamily tender; their sauce, a rich, winy broth with bits of tomato. You want to drink it straight from the bowl.

Other starters were also standouts. Three "lollipop" lamb chops arrived perched jauntily in a martini glass half filled with mint jelly. They did look something like lollipops; each tiny rib chop had a nugget of succulent meat at its end. And while you'd never want to eat all that green mint jelly, it is decorative.

Fresh mozzarella and slices of tomato, which were surprisingly good for this time of year, were stacked in a handsome tower, then garnished with greens drizzled with a sensational balsamic vinaigrette.

A cup of cream of crab soup was decadently rich and smooth on the tongue and generously filled with lump crab meat.

So far, so good. And the rest of our meal for the most part lived up to the appetizers, which doesn't always happen. This, it turned out, was Steak Night, so the Killer Steak -- a 14-ounce New York strip, meaty and flavorful, cost $12.95, $4 less than usual. With its mounds of good, garlicky mashed potatoes and well-seasoned mixed vegetables, it was an extraordinary deal.

The steak was certainly the best value, but I was seduced by Cosmopolitan's lobster cardinale, a delicate take on a dish that can be cloyingly rich. Chunks of lobster meat were tossed with cream, brandy and a whisper of garlic, then placed back in the shell. It was draped over perfectly cooked linguine with more of that seductive sauce.

The fish of the day, a thick fillet of mahi mahi, had snowy white flesh cooked to still-moist doneness. Its fruit salsa, with citrus and pineapple and notes of mint and coriander, refreshed and intrigued. Exotically seasoned rice complemented the fresh flavors.

Less interesting was our one selection from the light fare side of the menu. The shrimp salad sandwich, which arrived on a kaiser roll, was perfectly decent, but nothing out of the ordinary. And the slim french fries on the side were too salty and stone cold.

We couldn't complain about the desserts. The restaurant has classic cannoli, crisp-shelled and freshly filled with clouds of sweetened ricotta. There's a solidly creamy New York-style cheesecake with strawberries and a fine hazelnut buttercream cake. And I would have stood up and applauded the luscious bread pudding with a molten combination of brown sugar and coconut on top if I hadn't been so busy eating every morsel.

The Cosmopolitan is such a good-natured place, it seems like carping to point out that we had asked for a table in the non-smoking section when we made our reservation, but when we got there we were told the upstairs room was closed because workmen were on the roof. The maitre d' said he was limiting smoking to the bar, but when a woman lighted up at a table next to us, no one stopped her.


Food: *** 1/2

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ***

Where: 2933 O'Donnell St., Canton

Hours: Open every day for lunch and dinner

Prices: Appetizers, $3.95-$8.95; main courses, $12.95-$18.95

Call: 410-563-5000

Rating system: Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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