Little things are important Restaurant: The food is mostly fine and the prices fair, but appearances at Brookshire Rooftop Cafe leave something to be desired.

March 30, 1997|By Laura Rottenberg | Laura Rottenberg,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Until about a year ago, the restaurant at the top of the Brookshire Hotel was called Michael's Riviera Grill. The Michael in question was Michael Dalesio, formerly of Dalesio's fame in Little Italy. While Dalesio went on to do restaurant consulting and other things, his namesake restaurant at the hotel languished in a kind of Mediterranean-American cuisine limbo.

Then the hotel changed the name, lowered the prices and introduced a more emphatically American menu (think steaks and seafood). With this renewed sense of mission, and with a few changes, the Brookshire Rooftop Cafe could provide a pleasant, affordable eatery with a lovely downtown view.

First, the decor might be improved. The focus of the dining room is clearly on the bank of windows facing the Inner Harbor. The rest of the room suffers from a blandness common to many hotel restaurants. A little bit of color, some art, flowers or interesting table settings would enliven the nice existing space.

As they stand now, the hotel's china and glassware -- the sturdy, no-nonsense variety -- add nothing to the tables' appearance. And because the hotel offers a breakfast buffet every morning in addition to a la carte items, an inelegant, empty buffet station stands in full view at dinner time.

As an introduction to the food, the menu itself does not make a favorable impression with its single, hazy, photocopied sheet. As with a resume, paper stock and neatness count. The menu lists two salads, a soup and 10 entrees. Strangely, there were no appetizers. The cafe also offers no wine list. It serves only Woodbridge chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon or white zinfandel, so if you don't like those, your beverage will have to be of the corkless variety (beer, liquor or soda).

On our visit, we began by trying both salads and the soup. The soup was a thick, almost marinara-like tomato soup dotted with dried basil. A thinner consistency and the substitution of fresh, chopped basil would have improved it. Both salads were mounds of crisp, fresh lettuces -- the house salad sporting nice chunks of tomato and cucumber, the Caesar salad with an authentic-tasting dressing. The synergy of garlic and anchovy got our hopes up for the entrees.

A baked Norwegian salmon fillet on a pool of basil cream sauce and a "shrimp saute-Milanaise" were both lovely entrees. There was nothing "Milanaise," however, about the shrimp dish (the term usually refers to pasta topped with a sauce of tomato, ham, pickled tongue, mushrooms, truffles and Parmesan cheese). The sauteed shrimp and cherry tomatoes came with a wild rice pilaf moistened with a sinfully rich cream sauce.

While a simple baked chicken breast was lent interest by a filling of leek and mashed potatoes, a plain filet mignon (a little overcooked) was just ordinary. Unfortunately, all four entrees were paired with unseasoned, mushy green beans mixed with those little carrot fingers you can buy in a bag at the grocery story.

Desserts were preceded by Starbucks coffee. The best of our selections was a three-layer German chocolate cake with gooey, coconut-spiked icing. We also tried a slice of cheesecake and a bowl of chocolate ice cream. They, like the Brookshire Rooftop Cafe itself, would benefit from a little more attention to detail.

Brookshire Rooftop Cafe

Where: Brookshire Inner Harbor Suite Hotel, 120 E. Lombard St.

Hours: Open daily for breakfast; Monday through Saturday for dinner

Prices: Breakfast $8.95, $4.95 for continental; dinner entrees $12.50-$19.75. Major credit cards

Call: 410-625-1300

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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