September 19, 1993

Brasserie, Pomona Square, 1700 Reisterstown Rd., 410-484-0476. $$

This is a nice little restaurant, with food that ranges from decent ,, to very good. You can get breakfast and a deli lunch on one side, while the other is a casual restaurant presided over by Chef Michel Haudebert. He trained in France, but Italian influences predominate.

There are many bargains on this menu, like the imaginative antipasto misto, which includes marinated grilled vegetables, a buttery-smooth duck liver pate, marinated calamari, olives and capers.

The heart of the Brasserie's menu is pasta, such as a simple but appealing combination of small shells, cream and fresh salmon. The Brasserie's dinner menu is quite small, with three veal dishes and several grilled fish and meats along with the pasta. A grilled lamb steak, thin but still pink as ordered, had lots of juicy flavor and an elegant little brown sauce.

Not everything was a success. Broccoli sauteed with fennel seeds -- the vegetable that came with the lamb -- wasn't to my taste. And a grilled tuna steak with a lovely, delicate tomato and cream sauce had been overcooked.

(Last reviewed 7/93.)

Cafe Drubay, 38 Village Square, Village of Cross Keys, 410-323-2233. $$

Cafe Drubay started off as an espresso-wine bar, but nowadays the emphasis seems to be on the food. Owners Phillipe and Alexa Fong Drubay have created a crisp, clean black, white and chrome dining area. There are also eight tables in Cross Keys' tree-lined "village square" for alfresco suppers on beautiful fall evenings.

The food is limited to salads, sandwiches and cold plates -- what the Drubays call "Euro-American cuisine." That means, for instance, a "French country plate" with a good, hearty pate, paper-thin slices of sausage and rolls of ham. The choice of sandwiches is limited, but they have pizazz. Turkey breast came on a fresh baguette and was jazzed up with a good curried mayonnaise.

Least successful of anything we tried was the soup of the day, yellow squash. It was pleasant enough, but you'd get the same effect pureeing cooked squash with chicken broth.

Cafe Drubay has croissants, bagels and muffins for a Continental breakfast, and all sorts of coffees and coffee drinks for any time. Check out the killer desserts, too.

(Last reviewed 7/93.)

Citronelle, Latham Hotel, 612 Cathedral St., 410-727-7101. $$$1/2

Few restaurant openings in Baltimore have been as eagerly awaited as Citronelle's. And this spinoff of one of Southern California's most celebrated restaurants has, for the most part, lived up to expectations. The food is often superb, although sometimes innovative simply for the sake of innovation.

Our best starter was foie gras roulade, an extravagant slice of the buttery rich goose liver with a mosaic of shiitake mushrooms for a crust. But the dish that best exemplified Citronelle's strengths was duck with bordelaise cinnamon sauce. The breast was roasted and sliced still rare, the leg braised to juicy tenderness. Its delicate wine sauce had just a touch of cinnamon, hinting at Middle Eastern influences.

Much of this is healthful cooking without seeming so: Sauces, for instance, are reductions and vegetable essences, never overloaded with butter and cream. There's a sense of playfulness and interest in the unexpected -- and an emphasis on textures. These are combined with an appreciation of food that tastes good, elegant or not.

(Last reviewed 6/93.)

Gunning's, 7304 Parkway Dr., Hanover, 410-712-9404. 1/2 $$

The original Gunning's was one of Baltimore's legendary crab houses. When it was sold at a foreclosure auction, the son of the owner opened a spanking-new Gunning's just off Dorsey Road, with the family recipes and many of the same employees.

Gunning's deserves four stars for its crabs, which were huge beauties with just the right amount of seasoning. They were so freshly steamed they were too hot to handle. The crab fluff, too, was as good a version as I've had -- the big lumps of crab in a crisp, grease-free batter. And you can get Gunning's fabled green pepper rings, batter-fried and doused with powdered sugar. (A Baltimore tradition, hon.)

But stuffed broiled shrimp were overcooked, as was grilled chicken ordered by the non-seafood eater among us. The corn-on-the-cob was old, and the crab soup didn't have much crab. Things looked up again at dessert, though. Gunning's makes its own old-fashioned cobblers and giant chocolate eclair.

(Last reviewed 8/93.)

Gunning's, 3901 S. Hanover St., Brooklyn 410-354-0085. 1/2 For atmosphere, it's hard to beat the original Gunning's in Brooklyn. As of this year, this classic Baltimore crab house has a new owner who has kept the name and much of the old menu. You walk into a dark bar; the small wood-paneled dining room with red-checked tablecloths is to your right and, yes, there's a crab garden. Steamed crabs here taste even better because you're eating them in this cozy dining room.

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