Eggspectation is far more beautiful than any other place around specializing in breakfast fare. Located in Ellicott City, the new restaurant exudes an urbane, Old World aura that's more at home on a busy street corner in Montreal than in a barren new office park a stone's throw from a highway in Howard County.
The Montreal connection is made because Eggspectation is a spin-off of a popular breakfast place in that Canadian city.
Dave Albert, a co-owner of the Ellicott City outpost, discovered Eggspectation during a business trip to Canada. Impressed initially by the long queues snaking around the corner from the restaurant on a cold morning, Albert made daily trips to the restaurant throughout his stay to monitor the crowds. When he returned to Maryland, he discussed his find with Jon Hinkle, who had opened Ellicott City's Outback Steakhouse.
Hinkle journeyed to Montreal, liked what he saw and told his Outback colleague, Mindy Burroughs. The three then approached Eggspectation's owners about opening a restaurant in the mid-Atlantic. Permission granted, they opened the Ellicott City site.
The partners are careful to point out that the local Eggspectation is not a franchise within a chain; instead, it expands on the original restaurant's concept. For example, the Ellicott City restaurant has a dinner menu, while its eight Canadian siblings close at 3 p.m. It also has a bar, which the Canadian restaurants do not.
Still, the decor is straight from Canada. Exposed brick walls and wooden beams give the lofty building the look of a warehouse built at the turn of the 20th century. It's the same look that the Canadian eateries have.
And every bit of the decorative metalwork is handmade in Canada, from the clever wrought-iron whisk door handles to the twisted wine rack trees to the bar's foot rail, which is formed by repeating the word "eggs" in flowery script.
The kitchen is open, giving diners the chance to watch and hear toqued chefs at work.
As for what comes out of the kitchen, almost everything is very good, but a few things need tinkering with.
Flavors tended to be subtle, which did not always work. A slight sweetness was the only taste at work in a waffle Benedict (one of 10 twists on the egg classic served here). The hollandaise needed more lemon, and we could not taste or see any Gruyere cheese under the poached eggs.
We found the sauteed apple and cinnamon filling in a Normande omelet lacking much taste as well; the best thing on the plate was the side, a large portion of potato slivers sauteed in butter and brown sugar. A fruit dessert crepe had all the right ingredients: fresh blueberries, melons, mangos, strawberries and bananas. But serving them atop instead of inside the crepes gave the dish a disjointed feel that not even a decent vanilla sauce could tie together.
Everything else we had was quite good. Two tiny broiled crab cakes were crisp on the bottom, golden brown on the top and loaded with sweet white meat throughout. The appetizer came with sliced Roma tomatoes and kalamata olives drizzled with a delicious, thick herbal vinaigrette.
An unusual variation on bruschetta consisted of several hunks of moist baguette loaded with very tasty bocconcini cheese and a spread made of cold chopped tomatoes, basil, onion and oil.
A pasta primavera featured a nicely textured variety of sauteed vegetables - peas, carrots, beans, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms - cooked al dente to preserve their individual flavors.
The sweet-tart taste of raspberries practically burst out of a raspberry torte, a cold, fresh Bavarian cake with a chocolate crumb base and a dollop of chocolate and a tiny "egg" decoration on top.
The service at Eggspectation was excellent on our visit. A manager, as well as a server, checked in at decent intervals throughout our meal to keep the wine and water flowing. The hostess answered all our numerous questions about the decor with genuine enthusiasm.
Overall, Eggspectation is a better-than-average option for breakfast, whether at the traditional morning hour or late in the evening.
With a little more attention to taste details (more lemon in the hollandaise for starters), Eggspectation could be an outstanding dining option.
Where: 6010 University Blvd., Ellicott City
Open: For breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
Prices: Appetizers $2.49 to $8.99; entrees $4.99 to $17.99
Credit cards: AE, MC, V
Atmosphere: *** 1/2