Lots of surprises -- disappointing ones Restaurant: New dining room offers a number of things you don't expect -- and that's its problem.

August 25, 1996|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

Once the Cross Keys Inn had two restaurants: the formal hotel dining room, Crossroads, and the Village Roost, a glorified coffee shop best known for being the place in Baltimore to power breakfast.

The Village Roost always seemed to me to be the more successful of the two, so I assumed that when both places closed for renovations and reopened as one restaurant, the new dining room would be more casual than the old Crossroads -- more along the lines of the Roost.

Certainly the looks of the new place bear that out. The dining room is open and airy, with handsome, muted colors and a decidedly contemporary feel. Folk-art murals add warmth and charm. It's not a white-tablecloth kind of place, and the lights are fairly bright. You expect to be able to get a substantial salad or fancy sandwich here, something not too expensive.

What you don't expect is to open the menu and find it consists of dishes such as a "Trilogy of Woodland Mushrooms" ($6.95) and a grilled veal chop with sun-dried fruit and chestnuts ($21.95).

You don't expect a wine recommendation with each entree.

You don't expect to spend $144 for four (with a drink or glass of wine apiece) and have the lemon for your tea brought on a paper napkin.

You don't expect to get ersatz whipped cream with dessert.

More surprises:

A Chesapeake crab chowder was too salty to eat, while the "Trilogy of Woodland Mushrooms" had no salt but did have large chunks of garlic waiting in ambush in the cream sauce.

Red snapper Calypso was overcooked and covered with shredded phyllo and what looked and tasted like bottled salsa. Lots of bottled salsa.

The so-called bearnaise sauce on the steak Anderson tasted like baked egg yolk and nothing much else.

The house salad with raspberry hazelnut vinaigrette featured canned pears.

Gravlax was sliced thick and served on ice-cold (not even room temperature) thick, sweet pancakes masquerading as blinis.

The vegetable of the day, yellow squash and red pepper, was barely cooked and served with nothing, not even a bit of butter.

It took the staff so long to adjust the lighting toward the end of our meal it was like eating under strobe lights.

Nobody filled our water glasses.

Not everything, however, was a disaster. Our waiter was personable and got the food on the table quickly. (Of course, given what most of our meal tasted like, that could be considered a minus.)

A seafood mixed grill with a crab cake, scallops and swordfish with herb butter wasn't bad.

The various cakes we tried from the pastry tray were all fresh, and the rolls were good.

Unfortunately, that was about it.


Where: Cross Keys Inn, Village of Cross Keys.

Hours: Open 6: 30 a.m. to 10: 30 p.m. daily.

Prices: Appetizers: $6.95-$8.95; entrees, $12.95-$21.95; major credit cards.

Call: (410) 532-6900.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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