Yes, the Annapolis Chop House is part of a major chain of specialty restaurants based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. No, the Annapolis Chop House doesn't have the feel or food of a chain restaurant.
Comfortably tucked in an upstairs venue at the Annapolis Towne Centre since 2009, it looks like a classic steak house; perhaps one you might have found years ago attached to a four-star hotel. And although it is a "chop house" and steaks are the stars of the show, other meat and seafood dishes are more than supporting players.
The service is personal, professional and spirited. Its website claims everything is prepared "from scratch" and a dinner there will leave no doubt that ingredients are top notch and that Chef Ben Galloway and his team know very well what they are doing and exactly how to do it.
Sound like a traditional, upscale dining experience? Not quite. Shown to your table, you are handed not a fancy leather-bound menu, but an electronic "interactive" tablet (think I-Pad). You can browse the wine list, full menu, bar selections, side dishes and more. See a food item that intrigues you? One touch takes you to a photo, details of the preparation and how it's served and suggested wine pairings. Pretty nifty. (Note: you can review their menu on their website, but no prices are listed.)
Thanks to our helpful, upbeat waiter, Ryan, we figured out how to navigate the long wine list to come up with suitable glasses of white wines to sip while we poked the pad to review the more than a dozen appetizers, soups and salads to start the meal. Wine prices here are what you would expect. Most wines by the glass climb well above the $10 mark. A few bottles are modestly priced, but the prices follow the quality.
We were there early on an evening of a 100-degree day and were determined to start dinner on a light note. My wife chose the kale quinoa salad ($12.95) from a list that included the traditional Caesar, wedge and chopped choices; I opted for the pan-seared diver scallops ($16.95).
Kale has elbowed its way onto the salad menus of many an eatery with mixed results. Yes, it's a healthy choice but it needs a spa-like massage with good oil to tenderize it and alleviate the bitterness. The Annapolis Chop House gets it right. Soothed and relaxed, the kale was tossed with nutty quinoa, cubes of sweet butternut squash, caramelized shallots and almonds in an apple cider vinaigrette dressing. Eating it was soothing and relaxing.
The three diver scallops were smaller than I expected (durn those tablet photos), but they were perfectly pan-seared, sweet and tender.
Main courses begin with their impressive steak brigade – filets, New York strips, Porterhouse, Beef Wellington and three kinds of rib eyes: regular, dry-aged or the Japanese Wagyu. Pork, lamb, sea bass, crab, lobster and shrimp are mains too, adding a satisfying variety. Potatoes and vegetables are a la carte and are portioned for sharing in the best steak house tradition.
Beef is hard to resist and a fine test of the kitchen's skill, particularly in light of the Chop House prices. We went for the eight-ounce Espresso Filet Mignon ($47.95) and Wagyu Ribeye ($69.95). The filet came with steamed baby broccoli and mashed potatoes. We added on the cheddar au gratin potatoes ($9.95).
Wine with dinner took us back to the tablet, remembering that each main course listing suggested an ideal wine pairing. We touched the screen for filet mignon. The suggestions included … chardonnay and pinot grigio? Ah, technology. A few more touches found glasses of a good California red blend.
Now the test. "How would you like your steaks cooked?" said Ryan. Medium to one chef can result in perfection or something too rare to eat or too well done to chew to others. The Chop House answer? Touch the screen of your tablet menu and pictures pop up of their "degree of doneness" definitions. But do they deliver?
Yes, both were just right. The espresso-rubbed filet was sauced with a cranberry fig chutney and porcini butter … a nice touch, but with a really good filet? Genuine Wagyu beef is as good as you've heard it is – full flavored thanks careful farming that results in beautifully marbled meat.
The meal's one bump? Classic au gratin potatoes keep the starch, cream and cheese (usually Gruyere) in balance and add the tang of thin strings of onion and a bit of nutmeg. Our generous order was heavy and surprisingly bland.
We were about to decline dessert, but noticed that the crepe suzettes ($9.95) came with a scoop of ice cream, so why not? The crepes were tender and a classic conclusion to the meal.
The Annapolis Chop House is easily in the strata of the area's most expensive restaurants … but it's also in the more exclusive club of the area's best.
Annapolis Chop House
WHERE: 1913 Towne Centre Blvd., Annapolis
PHONE: 410-224-4344 (Reservations: 1-888-456-3463)
HOURS: Mon. — Thurs.: 5 —10 p.m., Sat.— Sun.: 5 —11 p.m., Sun: 4 —9 p.m.
CHEF: Ben Galloway
1ST COURSES: $13 — $60
MAIN COURSES: $30 — $70 (A La Carte Items: $10 — $15)
CREDIT CARDS: All Major Credit Cards