Creative touches in familiar setting Review: Reisters Desire replaces Forest Inn and gives some dishes an imaginative spin.

September 28, 1997|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN STAFF

It's always difficult to follow a legend. Well, the Forest Inn wasn't exactly a legend; but it was a restaurant with history behind it and a reputation for good food.

Steve and Devon Kurzweil, who bought the property at auction, realized that. Steve Kurzweil, formerly manager of the Inn at Glen Echo, decided to keep the Forest Inn's rustic feeling and to continue serving American food. "I'm told," he said at the time of the sale last spring, "that in this area I have to have a jumbo lump crab cake, so I will."

He named his new acquisition Reisters Desire, after one of the first land pacts granted to John Reister.

The dining room is folksy and casual to the extreme, with knotty pine walls, bay windows with Tiffany-style lamps hung in them, no tablecloths or mats, and hard wooden chairs to sit on. Kids are welcome; high chairs are provided.

And, yes, there is a jumbo lump crab cake -- at least as a special. But the food otherwise has an imaginative edge to it, which is unexpected, given the looks of the place. (Sometimes things are little too imaginative. The sweet honey-nut butter with the flavorful sour rye bread just didn't work. And I don't even want to read about a chocolate martini before dinner, let alone order one. It's made with a Hershey's Hug at the bottom of the glass.)

Quite elegant dishes such as duck with glazed cherries and spiced pecans share menu space with more casual fare like crab quesadillas. Not that those quesadillas aren't appealing. They weren't haute cuisine, but they were satisfying, with an unusual creamy ancho chili sauce. Bacon-wrapped shrimp in a tangy sauce and a zingy black bean salad were right on target. Sesame chicken strips over slender Thai noodles pleased us as well. The only problem is that these are small meals in themselves, not really appetizers.

The night we were there, mahi mahi was a special. Moist and fresh-tasting, the thick fillet was glazed with a saffron-scented sauce and served with really good vegetables -- red and yellow peppers sauteed with snow peas. A New York strip steak was impressive, flavorful and cooked as ordered and sporting a little mound of chili-flavored butter. Crisply fried onion rings came with it.

Of our main courses, only my stuffed breast of chicken (recommended by the waiter) wasn't quite up to snuff. I liked the stuffing of chopped artichoke hearts, spinach and feta; but there wasn't enough of it in proportion to the chicken, and its tomato sauce was indifferent.

Desserts were a letdown, but we couldn't get too worked up over the fact because so much food had come before. The warm peach and blackberry cobbler could have been a showstopper, but cinnamon overshadowed the fresh fruit flavors. A fine little lemon tart was so overdecorated with swirls of whipped cream and lines of raspberry sauce on the plate it looked silly. And the "Tin Roof Sundae" with two large and not very good chocolate-chip cookies, ice cream, a thin caramel sauce and finely chopped peanuts was a pedestrian ending for a meal that was anything but.

Reisters Desire

Where: 1100 Westminster Pike, Reisterstown

Hours: Open for lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner every night, brunch Sunday

Prices: Appetizers: $3.25-$6.95; entrees: $10.50-$17.95; major credit cards

Call: 410-517-1100

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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