Noble House has location, potential

September 09, 1994|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Restaurant Critic

I'm always delighted to find an outdoor cafe that isn't on the street. I love eating outdoors; I don't love the traffic and noise that usually go along with it. So if for no other reason I'm glad to have discovered the Noble House, where you can sit and enjoy the season's glorious weather, eat a decent meal and watch the people strolling through Hopkins Plaza to your heart's content.

This lunch and happy hour spot is located where La Provence, and before it Cafe des Artistes, used to be. The Noble House, like its predecessors, has aspirations to something more than providing deli food to rushed office workers. Here you can linger over grilled mako shark or a roasted vegetable plate. But the short menu is carefully planned to offer something for everyone: a gourmet hamburger, fettucine with fresh tomatoes and basil, a Caesar salad.

You can get a fresh fruit plate sprinkled with sliced almonds and drizzled with yogurt for something light. Or grilled tuna with a zingy pineapple salsa and a julienne of vegetables -- carrots, squash, red pepper. (Too bad the tuna was so thin it couldn't help but be overcooked.)

Grilled food is a specialty, but somehow nothing we tried -- the fish, a special of "steak shish kebab," the grilled vegetables -- had enough smoky flavor. Your best bet is something like the grilled chicken sandwich, jazzed up with sauteed wild mushrooms and melted havarti cheese, with a garlicky basil mayonnaise on the wonderful toasted farm bread. And I liked the red-skin potato salad on the side almost as much as the sandwich itself.

The Noble House's bread needs a paragraph all to itself. (It's from Uptown Bakery in D.C.) We tried the crusty, chewy farm bread and a sun-dried tomato bread that was equally good. (Alas, a customer next to us who had ordered the chicken sandwich complained that the bread was too hard to eat and had the waitress bring him a hamburger bun instead.) The bad news is that if you order the steak kebab or the fruit salad plate or any lunch where you might like a little bread on the side, it will cost you an extra $1.50.

That steak kebab does, however, come with an excellent rice pilaf as well as grilled tomatoes, onions, squash and peppers. You don't really need bread with it.

While most of the restaurant's food business is at lunch, you can get an early supper or drinks and munchies (perhaps the sexy hot crab meat and cream cheese dip with stoned wheat crackers). And starting tonight, the Noble House will also have a supper club with much the same menu. The place has potential: great location, location, location; great bread; almost great food. Keep an eye on it.

Noble House

Where: 9 Hopkins Plaza

Hours: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards

Features: Light fare

Non-smoking section? Yes

Call: (410) 837-6600

Prices: $5-$10

** 1/2

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