A report card for students and pros

Culinary college shows its skills

May 16, 2002|By Robin Tunnicliff Reid | Robin Tunnicliff Reid,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As the end of the school year approaches, students steel themselves for that inevitable summation of their academic performance - the report card. So, the timing seems appropriate for Eats to issue a report card for Bay Atlantic Seafood Restaurant, an eatery that's run by Baltimore International College, which offers programs in the culinary arts here and in Ireland.

Housed in the Mount Vernon Hotel downtown, the restaurant is staffed by work-study students and professionals. A student is the executive chef and so is the baker.

Atmosphere: A minus. The lofty room with arched windows is a lovely space. White walls punctuated by rich wood paneling and hunt-scene-related bric-a-brac evoke the feel of a stately English home in the country.

Tables are set with white-linen cloths and attractive, heavy cutlery. Desserts are arrayed in two long glass cases adjacent to an elegant wooden bar. The barely audible music in the background is soothing.

Service: B-minus to C. The main problem we encountered at Bay Atlantic was that our salads came before our appetizers. We weren't sure why this happened, because our server, a smiling, conscientious young woman, carefully recited our orders back to us before taking them to the kitchen.

The salads came (with dressings served inelegantly in covered plastic tubs on the side), but no appetizers.

We asked about the appetizers and they came shortly thereafter. This threw off the serving sequence so that when the entrees reached the table, two out of three were not hot.

Food: B-minus to C-minus. Given the restaurant's name, we expected a menu heavy on seafood. Not so; seafood surfaced only in three of six appetizers, three of seven entrees and one out of seven sandwiches.

In the appetizer category, an unusual offering of potato skins stuffed with a creamy scallop and crab-meat concoction was the best, hands down. Chock-full of vegetables, the Maryland crab soup was high on texture and low on crab. Stuffed mushroom caps also were low on crab; the dominant ingredient here was bread crumbs. The best thing about the dish was the roasted corn salsa served in the middle.

Moving on to entrees, we loved everything about the popcorn shrimp, from the pretty basket they came in to the crispy, hot crustaceans themselves. The baked potato on the side needed to spend a lot more time in the oven.

Two generous-sized pieces of cod fried in tasty corn-bread batter lost major points, because they were cold. Sides, however, were delicious - spicy coleslaw laced with red cabbage, and thin, crunchy french fries (that somehow managed to be hot, unlike the fish).

A cheeseburger ordered medium-rare with bacon came well-done, cold and without bacon. It was served on a nicely chewy sourdough roll that deserved better meat.

Desserts saved the day. The frosting on the chocolate layer cake was wonderfully grainy, as only homemade frostings can taste. We loved the tart cream-cheese frosting on the carrot cake. Butter-pecan cheesecake had tasty traces of caramel throughout. And an assortment of cookies included some of the chewiest, best peanut-butter treats I ever had.

Overall assessment: With strict attention to the order in which courses are served - and with warmer ovens - Bay Atlantic could be a very attractive player on the downtown restaurant scene.

Bay Atlantic Seafood Restaurant

Where: Mount Vernon Hotel, 24 W. Franklin St.

Open: For breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

Prices: Appetizers $2.95 to $8.95; entrees $5.95 to $11.95

Credit cards: AE, D, DC, MC, V

Call: 410-727-2000

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ** 1/2

Atmosphere: ***

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