Last week when I made up a list of the best restaurants I reviewed in 2008, I didn't really get a chance to talk about the food, except to mention how many stars each got. This week I went back to the archives and read through my reviews to come up with 10 memorable dishes.
I'm a big red meat eater (and pork), so I was surprised that not one made the list. I guess that was just in the nature of the restaurants I went to this year. Not one great steak house among them.
Every time I came upon a dish in the archives I raved about, I copied and pasted it. Then I looked at my list and had to eliminate a few. Finally I tried to put them in order of fabulousness and memorability.
Grilled oysters on the half shell in a lemon-butter chive sauce so luxurious it ought to be against the law. (Oregon Grille in Cockeysville)
Rockfish stuffed with crab imperial. This was probably the best version of this classic I've ever tasted, with nice big lumps of crab. It will knock your socks off. (Tark's Grill in Lutherville)
Seafood Bouillabaisse "Thai style." It was beautifully presented, with fine somen noodles, large scallops, pink shrimp and bits of lobster meat. A confetti of fresh pineapple added an unexpected note of sweetness to the spicy coconut broth. (Kings Contrivance in Columbia)
The delicate, beautiful cioppino, with shrimp, scallops, clams, calamari and whatever fish is freshest delicately swimming in a saffron-tinged broth with chopped fresh tomatoes. (Fin in Fells Point)
The creamy risotto studded with pine nuts and flavored with fresh basil, with grilled shrimp sitting jauntily on top. It's an enticing dish that would be a good supper with a salad. (Crush in Belvedere Square)
The best fish and chips any of us has had in Baltimore, with very fresh, white, flaky cod in a beer batter, homemade tartar sauce and salty gourmet chips instead of french fries. (Corks in Federal Hill)
Tender young half-chicken, impossibly juicy and flavored with an edge of smoke. Creamy grits and fresh chard complete an almost perfect plate. (Woodberry Kitchen in Woodberry/Hampden)
A seafood version of pho created especially for Baltimore, or so the menu says, with a delicately flavorful broth, a meaty crab claw, a mussel on the half shell, a shrimp, a scallop and a square of perch. (Baltimore Pho in the Hollins Market area)
Very fine vegetable lasagna, made with a touch of truffle oil. But even without the truffle oil I would have loved the just-tender pasta layered with perfectly cooked eggplant, squashes, red pepper and more. (Stone Mill Bakery in Lutherville)
Moist citrus poundcake, soaked in honey, with a delicate homemade honey ice cream. (Meli in Fells Point)
readers talk back
Only 3 out of 10 non-seafood?
Posted by: Retired in Elkridge
Hooray for Baltimore Pho. I love the vegetarian pho - Hollins market style (more veggies, fewer noodles). The problem BP must overcome is inconsistency. Sometimes the bean sprouts are not fresh and the basil ratty with brown edges. While I overheard the owner tell a table that all ingredients are bought fresh every morning, I have a hard time believing that. That same day, my broccoli had dry white patches, and the rice noodle rolls were missing ingredients. Anyway, I'm glad to see props given to pho (8), which is one of the world's most satisfying foods - and also to see a vegetarian dish (9) on a top ten!
Posted by: Heather
Lady E., I love this list, since I love seafood, and feel sludgy just from reading all those posts about beef! The only dish from the list I've actually had is the grilled oysters from Oregon Grille, and our party would agree they are excellent. On our recent visit they still had that dish, plus unadorned oysters on the half-shell and fried oysters (I believe--haven't ordered the latter, since you only get 3 instead of 6).
Posted by: Dahlink