Rooster Cafe: Something to crow about

TABLE TALK

Eats: dining reviews, Table Talk

October 23, 2003|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

You know how someone will talk about a great little restaurant they found in Europe?

"... Maybe in Rome or Prague. The owner greets you personally, there are a couple of waiters. They cook things fresh for you, and you remember it and you tell your friends," elaborates chef Mark Schek.

"Now, you don't have to buy a plane ticket," he announces. Schek is hoping you will now have that experience at The Rooster Cafe - the new restaurant he and partner Ali Shirvan have just opened in the Columbia area.

Schek should know what he's talking about. He trained in Michelin star restaurants in Europe and has won several American awards for his skill in French classical cuisine.

He describes the Rooster as a French-American bistro - small (with seating for 45), decorated in country blues and yellows, and displaying "plenty of rooster paraphernalia."

True to his description, he tries to meet everyone who enters.

But most important to this chef/owner is the food. The first words out of his mouth - "I only buy organic, natural, additive-free ingredients. But it's not a juice bar!"

Sure, there are health benefits to the components, but Schek also says he's found the natural stuff just tastes better.

Which leads us to the menu. Like the place, it is nicely compact. Among the four appetizers - organic light cream of tomato soup seasoned with saffron cumin and fennel ($5) and portobello mushrooms baked in an earthenware dish served with marinated tomatoes ($6). The entree list of five includes fresh tuna with garden chives, sweet Maryland corn, fingerling potatoes and a flan of Swiss chard ($16.95) and rack of Icelandic lamb served in olive jus over a sweet polenta cake ($15.95). And then there are the four dessert choices (all $6), like caramelized creme brulee with cinnamon, lemon and lime flavors and chocolate tower with raspberry sorbet. There are also daily specials.

Or you can go for the three-course tasting menu ($25). The restaurant does have a liquor license, and Schek says he's taken great care in choosing the wine list.

The Rooster Cafe, 443-755-0600, is at 6590 Old Waterloo Road in Elkridge - near the intersection of Routes 175 and 108, a mile off Interstate 95. Schek says he chose the spot because he wanted to be close to Montgomery County - where he grew up - and to offer an alternative to the predominantly chain-restaurant choices in Columbia. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday, and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. While the Rooster Cafe isn't open for lunch, it offers lunch catering - sandwiches and salads - for nearby businesses.

Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions by fax to Sloane Brown, 410-675-3451, or by e-mail to sloane@livetabletalk.com.

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