Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From the shores of Baltimore to our chops at Choptank:

What an appropriate day to write this review: last night, Eric and I just finished up the fifth and final season of The Wire, a show that stars Baltimore, "the game" on the streets, and the city institutions. And now I sit down to write about Choptank - a restaurant named after a river that runs from Baltimore across the Chesapeake Bay - conjuring up the complete opposite image of Maryland... preppy twenty-somethings, khakis, mallards, pink shirts and country clubs.

Choptank just opened this year and we were eager to take advantage of the BlackBoard Eats 3-course meal (nibble, entrée, desert) paired with either wine or beer (of Choptank’s choosing). We had heard good things and it’s located just a short jaunt away from our apartment. It was packed at 9:15 when we arrived – I guess the buzz hasn’t died down.

They serve up a basket of Old Bay chips, which is a nice little treat and a good way to dive into a Maryland seafood experience. Eric promptly dropped the basket all over the floor. Oops!

We started out with a "nibble" (aka "appy" or appetizer) of the crab dip and fried oysters. The crab dip was very rich…almost too rich and heavy…but it was quite tasty despite lacking in the crab meat department. It’s served with bread for dipping and wasn’t finished by us, which is rare. The fried oysters were delicious…hard to go wrong with this dish.

Along with each course came a very full glass of wine for me and a beer for Eric. We were both impressed with the drinks they brought to our table. We were expecting half-filled glasses of cheap wine & a "standard" beer. We were wrong, thankfully.

For the entrée, I went with the jumbo lump crab cake served with salad and sweet potatoes. Eric commented that there should have been two crab cakes, as it wasn’t a huge portion, but it was certainly delicious and full of crab meat, not mayo. I would order this again.

Eric had a hard time deciding between the fried chicken and the burger, two odd options for a seafood joint, but our waiter and the online reviews really pinpointed these two as signature dishes. He went with the fried chicken.. It was a heaping portion of goodness - crumbly fried batter & piping-hot chicken below. The pepper-honey dipping sauce brought it to another level and he was happy with the decision he made.

For dessert (which is a little hazy, after a drink before dinner and two large drinks at dinner), we got the Bailey’s ice cream and vanilla-coconut 7-layer cake. Both were good, but certainly nothing special.

So…to sum up, this restaurant is good, not great. It’s one of those times when the whole somehow doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. Each dish was good but after the meal was over, I didn’t get the I-have-to-go-back-and-recommend-this-place feeling like you can get at so many NYC establishments – post-meal glow, if you will.

As Sam Sifton says in his New York Times review of Choptank (I guess any mention of Baltimore allows people to draw upon the.best.show.ever):

New Yorkers probably deserve better. Certainly better is available. But as Snoop once said on “The Wire,” a stone-cold gangster making sense of the Baltimore night, “Deserve got nothin’ to do with it.”

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