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Cold Fusion

Pacific Rim Serves Up an Uneasy Mix

Pacific Rim

This location is closed

By Susan Fradkin | Posted 11/21/2001

"Pacific Rim." The very words conjure adventure and excitement: images of vast oceans and tropical vistas, of being perched on the edge of something big. That's how C.C. and I felt as we veered off a sterile stretch of York Road on a cold autumn evening and ventured into the East-meets-West aura of Pacific Rim Restaurant (9726 York Road, Cockeysville, [410] 666-2336). Our adventure, though, turned out to be more edgy than exciting.

We liked the soothing, inviting ambiance. A series of small rooms, including a little sushi bar, done in shades of maroon with pale green highlights. Comfy chairs. A few porcelain statues and colorful masks. Subdued lighting. The place was on York Road but not of it. A perfect suburban retreat.

Perfection dimmed when our server arrived. For starters, he didn't know the specials. He went to find out. He returned to recite them. It wasn't a long list.

"What's Triple Treasure?" we asked. It sounded promising.

Our server looked momentarily stunned, as if we'd skipped the easy preliminaries and went right to the question that would make us millionaires. "I have no idea," he finally replied.

He went to find out. He returned to recite. We decided to stick with the menu items. (To be fair, he maneuvered well enough through the rest of our meal, once the disaster of ordering was behind him.)

Since it was a chilly night, I sought a quick infusion of heat. Tofu, bean thread, and shrimp soup ($2.50 for a pint) satisfied without shrieking for attention. The clear broth didn't have enough of the advertised lemon-grass flavor, but spring onions added a nice touch to the mix of clear noodles, lots of cubed tofu, and a few medium shrimp. It warmed us quickly.

The arrival of two more appetizers, shrimp tempura ($6.50) and Dynamite Maki ($5.50), showed the kitchen at its best. Four large shrimp and some green pepper, broccoli, and carrot, all flash-fried in the merest whisper of tempura coating, came artfully arranged on a doily-lined ceramic tray and accompanied by a light soy dipping sauce. The shrimp were beautifully fresh, as was the maki, filled with tuna, salmon, and scallions, then sliced, seared, and topped with a creamy sauce and a lot of salty flying-fish roe. Perfect for those who like their raw fish, um, cooked.

From this point, however, things began to go awry, and I fear the culprit was fusion. If memory serves, Pacific Rim was in the vanguard of Baltimore fusion joints, but over the years the fusion concept has evolved beyond the restaurant. Or maybe Pacific Rim just doesn't do fusion best anymore. Be that as it may, we tried two dishes in the fusion vein, with highly mixed results.

C.C.'s Chinese fettuccine with lump crabmeat ($14.95) sounded like a good idea, especially since the ingredients included sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, scallions, and a cilantro cream sauce. An inventive dish, but like a lot of inventions it didn't work. Pity, because the plate contained a lot of very nice crab, but it got lost in what tasted more like a light brown sauce than anything resembling cilantro. As if to counter the extreme saltiness of the dish, black pepper had been ground over the top. It didn't look or taste good. We both tried a little and then let the server box the rest for home, more as a courtesy than anything else.

I fared better with Peking duck fajitas ($10.50). Still, the dish was in some ways an argument for why East shouldn't meet West. The duck itself was great--thin slices of moist, flavorful meat; really crispy skin; scallion slivers with which to paint the pancakes with hoisin sauce. But the pancakes! Not those delicate, lacy crepes the dish demands, but store-bought flour tortillas. Ugh. Too thick, too tasteless, and not even warmed. Stir-fried green and red peppers and onions complemented the oriental flavors. Not entirely fresh shredded lettuce and chunks of canned tomato did not.

The entrées cured us of any fusion desires. (Well, not entirely. I'm curious about the grilled Mississippi catfish with hoisin peanut sauce, crispy onions, and South Pacific rice. But maybe I'm just a sucker for hoisin sauce.) One would do better here to think of "fusion" as the fusion of Asian flavors. The menu does wander through China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. Alas, the order of General Tso's chicken ($9.50) we brought home for Arshan, our Young Person in Residence, proved nothing special, though it was appreciatively consumed.

As no desserts are made on the premises, we concluded our evening. Perhaps half-consciously, we forgot our leftover fettuccine. A server, not ours, raced down to the parking lot with it. Ours, I hope, was busy memorizing the specials.

Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-10 p.m. Sunday.

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