Seafood impresses at Cheshire Crab

September 11, 1997|By Brian Sullam | Brian Sullam,SUN STAFF

Dining at the Cheshire Crab reinforces the notion that appearances often can be deceiving.

Our object lesson began with the drive to the restaurant. As we turned off Fort Smallwood Road and drove down a series of residential streets, my dinner companions expressed doubts about my navigational skills. However, when the restaurant's well-lighted sign appeared on our right, they immediately became believers.

When we walked onto the expansive deck of the restaurant, which overlooks Main Creek and a marina, and saw people in shorts at picnic tables picking at piles of crabs, we had the feeling we were in the wrong place. We had expected to find a more formal restaurant and were dressed in slacks and jackets.

Things did not improve when we walked indoors. The singer providing the entertainment had his amplifiers turned up so loud that conversation was impossible. We asked the hostess for a table on the deck, and she quickly complied.

Once we were seated on the edge of the deck and had watched the sun dip down and examined the menu, the complaints stopped.

Steamed crabs and pitchers of beer are offered at the Cheshire Crab, and so are some very well-prepared seafood dishes.

We started with two appetizers, fried calamari and seafood nachos. The generous portion of lightly breaded and perfectly fried rings of tender squid ($5.95) disappeared quickly. The seafood nachos ($8.95) weren't as well received. The cheese sauce overwhelmed the flavor of the bits of shrimp and crab sprinkled over the warm corn chips.

One warning: These are large appetizers. We split two among four adults and barely had room for entrees.

The entrees include steak and ribs in addition to seafood, but we ordered from the maritime side of the menu and were not disappointed.

The two crab cakes ($19.95) were full of succulent lump meat and carefully broiled.

The broiled seafood platter ($18.95) came with four good-sized shrimp, a crab cake, four large sea scallops and a generous salmon filet. Every item had been cooked to perfection. The fish was firm but moist, and the scallops were tender.

An order of shrimp and scallops marinara over linguine ($14.95) arrived piping hot and full of large pieces of seafood.

The hit of the evening was broiled mahi-mahi covered with a zesty teriyaki sauce ($16.95). The combination of sweet and salt in the sauce complemented, rather than overwhelmed, the delicate taste of the fish.

Each of the entrees came with two side dishes, and the pasta came with a salad.

There's also a children's menu that has some dishes with names -- Cow Patty, Quarter Hounder and Say Cheese -- that would appeal to the younger crowd.

In the interest of having a complete meal, we decided to split a dessert among the four of us. We chose the Rich & Fudgy Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Sauced Brownie a la Mode ($4.95). It was as big as its name is long. Even with four people attacking this dessert, we barely were able to reach the bottom of the dish.

Our waitress was attentive, answered all of our questions and served us with a bright smile.

Dinner, two cocktails and a bottle of wine amounted to $79.02 with tax for two.

The meal cost more than we expected, but we left feeling that the quality of the food had exceeded our expectations.

Cheshire Crab

Where: 1701 Poplar Ridge Road, Pasadena, 410-360-2220

Hours: Sunday through Thursday: 11: 30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11: 30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (until Oct.)

Prices: Appetizers, $4.95-$9.95; entrees, $12.95-$25.95

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express

Rating: ***

Ratings: * culinary wasteland

**** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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