There is more to Kent Island restaurant than meets the eye

Seafood: Hemingway's offers great food and drinks -- with waterfront views.

August 19, 1999|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,SUN STAFF

I'm coming down the eastbound lane of the Bay Bridge, and the first thing I see is Hemingway's, a waterfront restaurant on a point of land next to Pier One Marina. The first thing I think is, "bar food."

That's understandable thinking, given the speedboat races and other events held off the beach in the summer, but it's wrong. This place with stripped-down decor inside and resin chairs and tables on a balcony overlooking the bay is a gem.

The Gamba Al Ajillo -- shrimp sauteed in an olive oil and wine sauce -- is the best shrimp scampi you've ever had, only better. And it's just an appetizer.

Better yet, the prices, while not cheap, aren't so steep as to scare you away. Appetizers range from $5.50 for fried calamari to $12 for a tropical seafood cocktail. Entrees run from $13.50 for a pasta dish to $24 for crab cake and filet mignon. The portions are generous. The wine list is varied with plenty of decent wines for less than $25 a bottle. Of course, there's Dom Perignon ($128), too.

My wife and I visited Hemingway's at dusk on a Tuesday, too late for a sunset drink on the balcony, but in time to watch the twinkle of lights from the bridge, the lighthouse at Sandy Point and the steel mill at Sparrows Point, which you can see when the summer haze lifts.

The calamari and shrimp arrived in deep, white bowls trimmed in blue with fruit painted on the border. The menu said the calamari came with a marinara sauce, but it was more like crushed tomatoes with a mix of onions that enhanced the taste of the lightly breaded, tender squid.

The shrimp was sauteed in just enough olive oil to protect it while it was in the pan, a little butter and wine and loads of garlic.

My wife chose sesame encrusted rockfish ($18) for her entree, and I had pan-roasted halibut and shrimp served with a Creole sauce ($21).

I had backed away from the rockfish because I hate when chefs try to get fancy with such a delicate taste. But again, I was wrong. The sesame seed crust keeps the fish moist and enhances its taste without overwhelming it. You just sense the sesame, rather than taste it.

The fish was served over spicy Asian noodles with a sesame oil-based glaze on the side that eased the spicy bite of the noodles and gave them a hint of sweetness.

My flounder was light and flaky and the shrimp split open and done to a crisp. The Creole sauce had just enough heat to bring out the flavor of the food rather than overwhelm it.

Both dishes came with a crisp and tasty medley of green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers.

The desserts are not to be missed. My wife had Key Lime Glace ($5.95), a frozen concoction that comes with a coating of mango sauce and toasted slices of coconut. It was the undyed color -- yellow -- and had that citrus taste so refreshing on a summer evening.

I had the Triple Delight. It may sound like a dish from a Chinese restaurant, but you wouldn't eat this with chopsticks, not with those layers of devil's-food cake, cheesecake and raspberry mousse. Or that delicious raspberry sauce dripped across it and pooled on the dish.

As with most everything at Hemingway's, the Triple Delight was lighter than you would expect, given the description, with a mix of complementary tastes.

The bill, with a reasonably priced (for a restaurant) bottle of Chateau St. Michelle chardonnay, came to $102.85 plus tip; not bad for excellent food in a pleasant atmosphere.

Just one thing. Get one appetizer for two and split it. Otherwise, you'll be too full to finish the entrees.

Hemingway's

Where: Pier One Road, Stevensville, Md. 410-623-2722

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10: 30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Prices: Appetizers, $5.50-$12; entrees, $13.50-$24

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

Rating: ****

Ratings: * culinary wasteland **** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 8/19/99

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