There's nothing especially Victorian about the decor of the Victorian Room at the Dunes Manor Hotel. The name comes from desire to evoke "the early Victorian period of Ocean City, when the staff of seaside hotels prided themselves in tending to guests in a very personal manner," according to DuneScapes, the hotel's newsletter.
And if the restaurant doesn't completely live up to that goal, it at least provides fine dining in an elegant setting by the ocean.
We started with the day's soup, cream of cauliflower ($2.50 for a bowl), and the chicken fingers ($4.95). The soup was creamy and good, though a bit bland. The chicken fingers seemed to justify the restaurant's claim that it prepares foods Eastern Shore style: Six strips were covered with a crispy, spicy batter that recalled good country-style fried chicken. They came with a slightly soupy honey mustard sauce.
Our entrees showed the kitchen's excellent potential with dishes both light and lavish, although we wished for just a bit more attention to the minutiae.
Tuna ($12.95) was the Victorian Room's fish market selection that evening. The generous grilled filet was fresh and delicious, with the chef displaying a welcome light touch with the lemon-herb butter.
The attractively garnished entree was accompanied by tender new potatoes and an "Ol' Eastern Shore-style" blend of squash and broccoli. In this case, we couldn't determine the regional influence on the preparation; the vegetables, while satisfying, seemed merely steamed and dressed with butter.
My companion's veal Oscar ($15.50) was a hearty entree. The tender veal was heaped with a mixture of crab meat, asparagus, shallots and lemon juice and hidden in bearnaise sauce. Together with a mound of white rice and those same Ol' Eastern Shore veggies, they filled up both the plate and the diner.
On the downside, both entrees were served lukewarm, to their detriment, and the crab in the veal Oscar had quite a few shells.
For dessert, we chose the peach Melba ($3.25) and the turtle cheesecake ($2.95). The cheesecake was a treat, with the chocolate and caramel flavor of turtle candy providing the shell and topping for a thick, coarse-textured cheesecake. The peach Melba successfully paired two canned-peach halves with two scoops of vanilla ice cream and was topped with a very sweet raspberry sauce.
The Victorian Room
At the Dunes Manor Hotel, 28th Street and the ocean, 289-1100.
Hours: Dinner, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Credit cards: American Express, Diner's Club, MasterCard, Visa.
Features: Seafood and Eastern Shore specialties.