We were newcomers to Windows on the Bay and wondered, as we drove past the dry-docked boats lining the White Rocks Marina drive, what we were in for.
What we were in for was an attractive, informal restaurant with superb food and a great view of Anne Arundel County waterfront.
About half the tables are in a large, spacious dining room. The windows that fill two walls bring the bay nearly table side. But you can get even closer; the rest of the tables are on a large, tent-covered deck.
My husband and I dined inside. But as the sun was setting and the lights from Bethlehem Steel at Sparrows Point were twinkling in the distance, we wished that we had chosen the deck.
It would not be surprising, given the pleasant distractions of these surroundings, to find food that was just average. Windows on the Bay is the kind of place many of us would return to as much for the ambience as for the appetizers.
What we found was food that was, however, way above average, beautifully presented and served with a reasonable degree of professionalism.
After a bit too long of a wait for menus and to order drinks, we took the waitress' recommendation and shared a cup of a creamy tomato-crab soup ($1.50 for a cup) while deciding on the rest of our meal. We had never had anything quite like the combination of crab meat, cream, tomatoes and Old Bay. It was subtle, but savory.
I followed with Spiced Shrimp ($4.25 a half dozen). The butterflied shrimp came in a light sauce that obscured the seasoning. They were good, but lacked bite. The accompanying cocktail sauce was, however, tremendous, especially when used a dip for the homemade rolls.
My husband had an appetizer of Grilled Scallops ($5.95). The four large, tender scallops resting on a bed of straw-cut vegetables and dusted with a tarragon-butter sauce were a scallop-lover's delight. Two orders would have made a tremendous entree.
Not that our entrees weren't tremendous. They were.
From the nine regular selections and the night's specials, I chose Fresh Egg Fettucini ($9.95). It sounded unbeatable from the menu's description: "Egg fettucini tossed with grilled chicken breast, broccoli florets and straw-cut vegetables in a fresh basil cream sauce."
It was even better than it sounded, with the various flavors and textures playing off one another to my taste buds' delight. The sauce was light, though flavorful.
My husband picked a special: twin filets of flounder wrapped around crab meat and seasoned with a dill-butter sauce ($16.95). It showed, as did so much of our meal, a sure-footed ability to combine diverse elements a la Buckminster Fuller: The whole of the dish was greater than the sum of all its parts.
Served on the same plate were more perfectly cooked straw-cut vegetables and broccoli florets. On the side, but included in the price, was a large plate of thinly cut homemade french fries.
We also had a huge serving of Shaved Onion Rings ($1.75). The onions were not rings at all, but the thinnest of slivers that dissolved deliciously on the tongue without being greasy.
Then came dessert, which we have found to be the easiest spot for otherwise good restaurants to misfire. Not so at Windows. My mousse of chocolate and peanut butter pie ($3.25) was light and delicious. My husband's flourless chocolate cake topped with chocolate mousse and whipped cream ($3.50) was even better.
All desserts are made in-house, our waitress said. It showed, both in taste and appearance. These aren't offerings you've seen in a dozen other restaurants.
We had liked our waitress a lot, although she did seem to push drinks more than we are used to; she was not alone in this. She also, we noticed, did not give us as thorough a rundown of the night's specials as did the waitress at a nearby table. On the other hand, she asked the chef what the soup was seasoned with, after we asked about it, and she did seem genuinely interested in how we liked each course.
We lingered over coffee, as we paid our bill of $64.44, which included two cocktails and two glasses of wine, and watched the sky darken. Fresh-faced young servers, dressed casually in bright floral shirts, continued to scurry about this popular place.
How popular? As we entered, we heard the host tell a party without reservations that the place was booked solid. It's no wonder.
*** 1/2 Windows on the Bay,
1402 Colony Road,
in White Rocks Marina, Pasadena,
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Light fare served daily 3 to 5 p.m. Closed Monday.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Accessible.
Smoking: Separate areas designated