Driving in Ocean City can be a nightmare, but this is one time you'll want to risk Coastal Highway traffic -- all for the sake of food. Dinner at the Atlantic Hotel in Berlin is worth whatever hassles it takes to get over the bridge and out of town.
A mere 8 miles from the beach, the restaurant is located in a restored 1895 hotel that has been painstakingly restored and oozes turn-of-the-century charm. Picture a wide porch with rocking chairs, an outdoor herb garden (wonderfully represented our meal), antique furnishings and a parlor that serves as a bar. You'll be transported to another time.
You'll also be transported once you taste the food -- to a culinary heaven. The snapper soup was chock-full of fish in a pleasantly flavored broth that reached grand status with the addition of sherry served in an individual decanter. Another starter, an interesting-sounding seafood sausage, was truly delightful. Two slices of the delicate sausage featured a lobster mousse center in a shrimp-and-scallop-mousse casing, surrounded by a pool of lemon dill sauce. It did everything an appetizer should do: teased the appetite and set the stage for more kitchen successes.
The chef didn't disappoint us. First we cleansed our palates with homemade strawberry sorbet in elegant little crystal goblets, a welcome finesse.
The entrees included tournedos au poivre, which proved much more than just pepper-encrusted tenderloins. The twin filets had been finished off in a Scotch orange butter -- translation: flamed with Scotch, orange juice and orange zest.
Our other entree, blackened tuna loin, was a nice rendition of the Cajun dish. The spices were more low key than some I've had, but that was a plus since it enhanced rather than detracted from the fish steak. A nice touch was the sweet pineapple salsa served on the side.
Accompaniments included, appropriately, rice with the fish dishes and red potatoes with the meat entrees, plus a flavorful pairing of sauteed zucchini and carrots.
Our waitress was very knowledgeable about the food and didn'seem to mind the many questions we asked about various dishes. With 10 of us at the table, her patience was impressive. For the sake of keeping this review to a manageable length, I've concentrated on two of our dinners, but the other items I tasted were excellent: liver that melted in your mouth, chubby soft shell crabs with capers and succulent quail, to name a few.
The dessert course was the only time we experienced hits and misses. The bread pudding, laced with liquor, was delicious, but the strawberry tart too heavy. It tasted more like an extremely dense, flattened cheesecake with unripe fruit glazed on top of it. But all ended well with dainty cookies laced with chocolate.
2 N. Main St., Berlin, 641-0189.
Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; brunch, 11 p.m. Sundays; dinner, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa.
Reservations: Strongly recommended (the restaurant only seats 62).