Cafe Normandie offers good French fare, service

October 02, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Cafe Normandie on Main Street in Annapolis offers a cozy nook to spend a quiet evening with good French food, a variety of wines and great service.

My dining companion and I arrived at the restaurant shortly after 8 p.m. on a Saturday and immediately were impressed with its decor.

With its chunky stone fireplace and walls decorated with Gauguin and Renoir posters and watercolors of French country scenes, the restaurant could have been the dining room at the home of a friend. A framed black-and-white picture of owner Jean-Louis Evennou cleaning a kitchen at age 9 completed the effect.

We asked to sit upstairs -- a tiny area with about seven tables that's open only Friday and Saturday evenings.

The tables, pleasantly, were close enough so we could vicariously enjoy our neighbors' big bowls of bouillabaisse and roast duck with raspberry. We also enjoyed our view through tiny windows -- the illuminated State House and schools of midshipmen passing on the street.

For further distraction, we counted the number of times HanMi, our attentive waitress, raced up and down the 14 steps to fetch food or bus tables. She made at least 30 trips in the 90 minutes we were there.

We began our meal with tomato mozzarella with basil vinaigrette ($6.50), which came topped with a delicious sprinkling of bits of spinach and onion well-marinated in the vinaigrette. It also came with a healthy serving of greens on the side. Bread cost an extra dollar.

My companion had the Chef's Special ($22.95) -- a sumptuous sampling of a petit filet, crab cake, salmon, rockfish, scallops and shrimp.

The crab cake was mediocre, and the scallops and shrimp were average. But the rockfish and salmon -- which came slathered with a sweet, chunky blueberry sauce -- were fresh, soft and superb. So was the petit filet, which came perfectly done, medium-well and very tender.

My Beef Mignonnette with Pepper Sauce ($17.95) entree was similarly pleasing. I got about five hockey-puck sized mignonnettes swimming in a tangy, peppery gravy with mashed pTC potatoes on the side. The beef was tender, but some of the mignonnettes weren't as well done as I would have liked.

For dessert, we felt pressured to take the route all our other second-floor companions had -- Crepe aux Fraises ($5.25). So we settled back to cappuccinos ($2.50) and dug in.

The large crepe, bursting with strawberries and whipped cream, was tremendously satisfying at first. But the crepe was a little heavy on a full stomach, and if you let the crepe sit for a while, it eventually becomes sodden with the sweet strawberry sauce that comes with it, which wasn't a pretty sight.

"I'm getting a sugar rush just looking at it," my companion said. "I'm definitely going running tomorrow."

Cafe Normandie

Where: 185 Main St., Annapolis, 410-263-3382

Hours: Dinner, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 10: 30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch, 11 a.m. to 4: 45 p.m. every day. Breakfast, 8 a.m. to noon.

Prices: Appetizers, $3.75-$8.75; entrees $7.25-$22.95

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diners, Discover

Rating: ** 1/2

Ratings: * culinary wasteland **** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 10/02/97

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