Brunch brings bravos, but dinner details disappoint

August 15, 1996|By Laura Rottenberg | Laura Rottenberg,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the review of Central Station in the Aug. 15 issue of Live, there were several errors.

Lunch hours for the restaurant are 11: 30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Dinners hours are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday brunch is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lunch prices are $2.95 to $8.95 for appetizers and $4.95 to $8.50 for entrees. Dinner prices are $2.95 to $8.95 for appetizers and $4.95 to $22.50 for entrees. Brunch prices are $2.95 to $6.95 for appetizers and $4.95 to $12.95 for entrees.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

In the accompanying photo caption, Toni Basinger's job was misstated. She is the restaurant's chef.

The Sun regrets the errors.

It was a dry, clear, breezy Sunday morning -- an anomaly in Baltimore this summer. We'd finished loading up the car with big, fleshy tomatoes, armloads of fragrant basil and a tangle of sunflowers from the downtown farmers' market, and we were feeling fairly giddy as we drove up Charles Street. The green umbrellas of Central Station's sidewalk tables commanded us: Ye shall brunch. Obedient, we pulled over. What followed was a meal as serendipitous as the beautiful day.

Most people know Central Station as a friendly bar and hangout that caters to the diverse Mount Vernon neighborhood. Well, we'd all spend more time in bars if they served biscuits like these. Brunch began with a basket of breads -- dense walnut raisin, soft challah, hearty wheat and heavenly tender biscuits all served with little spheres of orange butter.

We nursed a silky cappuccino, a tall orange juice and a Bloody Mary (A little thin: Better tomato juice is the remedy) while watching the passers-by on Eager Street. The brunch lineup is an international breakfast Dream Team -- malted waffles, huevos rancheros, Western omelets, eggs Benedict, breakfast meats and more.

The moderately priced eggs Benedict was a runaway favorite with the bargain hunters among us. Three English muffins topped with pan-fried Canadian bacon, softly poached eggs and dollops of perfect hollandaise were huddled on one end of a plate crowded with delicious, crusty, red-potato home fries and slices of ripe melon.

Central Station's brunch menu offers something for the early riser who, having breakfasted hours ago, hankers for a light lunch. Burgers, sandwiches and a bevy of carefully made salads balanced out the offerings. Our favorite was a mixed summer fruit salad with greens, topped with lemony yogurt dressing, chopped walnuts and chunks of mango, honeydew and cantaloupe. The flavors and textures melded beautifully, and the portion was perfect.

With high hopes, we decided to return to Central Station for dinner a few days later. Braving the throbbing music and the crowd in the dark bar, we wended our way upstairs to the charming second-floor dining room, complete with fireplace and opulent art deco chandelier. As at brunch, the service staff was exceptionally warm and helpful, unearthing a seldom-used highchair for our smallest dinner companion.

The dinner menu shows similar breadth and ethnic diversity, but if God is in the details, the evening kitchen crew needs to go to divinity school. While there are many enjoyable dishes (note the grilled polenta cubes ladled with tangy tomato sauce and sprinkled with goat cheese), a number suffer from inattention (see the Caesar salad tossed with dressing that lacked a garlic and anchovy oomph).

Otherwise pleasant entrees were marred by improper temperatures and inappropriate garnishes. The evening's special of sesame-crusted tuna brought two virtually raw steaks lightly sprinkled with sesame seeds and served with an Asian vegetable medley and dry, unsauced fettuccine. The vegetables were flavorful but, dotted with chunks of fibrous lemon grass, they were painful to eat. A basic burger was uninspired and missing its promised grilled onions.

The dessert tray was a high note. It featured a nice range of sweets, from chocolate-peanut butter pie to lemon curd tart topped with glazed berries.

Central Station

1001 N. Charles St.

(410) 752-7133

Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11: 30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday )) and Saturday, 11: 30 a.m. to midnight

Credit cards: Major credit cards

F: Prices: appetizers, $3.95-$6.95; entrees, $5.95-$15.95

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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