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Belly Up

Skin Deep

Eurasian Harbor's fusion is lovely but occasionally lacking

EurAsian Harbor

This location is closed

By Susan Fradkin | Posted 8/15/2001

East routinely meets West in restaurants these days, and that's a good thing. I applaud the efforts of visionary, multiculti chefs, even if the culinary result of such fusion is sometimes confusion. But, hey, throw in a handsome interior, attentive service, and a waterside setting, and I'm willing to let a lot slide.

So let me state my bias right out: I loved the look and feel of the new--and instantly popular, judging by the weeknight crowd--EurAsian Harbor (711 Eastern Ave., [410] 230-9992). The space in the Pier V Hotel (the former home of Lenny's Chop House) is inviting: wide, heavy tables, comfy chairs, hanging lanterns throughout the dining room. Orchids make an eloquent understatement. The kitchen is semi-open and bustling, and you can stroll up for a closer look.

You can get a wide variety of sushi at EurAsian Harbor, enough so that it took some deliberation before Raquel, whose anniversary we were out celebrating, selected tiger eye sushi ($9), an appetizer so beautiful that even C.C. broke her self-imposed taboo on eating raw fish. The plate was beautiful, each slice of sushi a miniature work of art. The eye of the tiger proved to be asparagus, surrounded by rice, wasabi, and tobiko (flying-fish roe), which was in turn wrapped in tuna then wrapped again in nori (dried seaweed) and fried tempura-style. It always amazes me that raw fish can taste like freshly seared sirloin, and this tiger eye's tuna did just that. The wasabi curled the tongue, the rice cooled it, and the tempura supplied a pleasing crunch.

In the interests of covering the culinary waterfront, I ordered an appetizer special (rather pricey at $16) that presented three different seafood items. The best was the East meets West Crab Cake--two very small cakes, actually, crafted from quality meat and spiced with Thai yellow curry, which packs more of a punch than Old Bay. The shrimp porcupine martini--see what I mean about confusion?--consisted of two huge shrimp dipped in what looked like shredded wheat and fried. The shrimp did not remotely resemble a porcupine or a martini, but they were fresh and fine. The crispy panko oysters weren't crispy and they had been fried too long in the unseasoned Japanese breadcrumbs that gave them their name, sacrificing their precious oceanic essence. Waste of a damn fine oyster, as my bubbie would have said.

Overcooking also marred the most dramatic of our entrées, Raquel's citrus-glazed crispy duck with curried couscous and hoisin sauce ($18). The mahogany-hued duck had been chopped into manageable pieces and arrayed diagonally across the plate, as if in flight. The flavors of orange and curry and sweet-and-spicy hoisin found their canvas in the couscous, which was worth fighting over. The duck, admirably lean, picked up more of the curry flavor than anything else, but it was dry.

C.C. loved her Atlantic salmon filet ($16), a moist, fat filet wrapped in a thin rice-paper "crust." The lime-ginger-soy emulsion looked beautiful, but I can't say I was able to detect the individual flavors. I liked the mildly bitter bok choy that accompanied the fish, but C.C. preferred the molded jasmine rice, an olfactory as well as a taste sensation.

Collin and I chose main courses at the lower end of the monetary spectrum. His pad Thai ($13) wasn't what we were expecting. The smoky flavor was pleasant, the chicken and shrimp plentiful, and the serving huge, but the staple peanuts were absent and the seasoning seemed off. The overall effect was bland. Not so my Indonesian-style chicken ($12), two boned breasts served in a curry coconut sauce over skinny buckwheat noodles. I didn't expect peanut flavor from the menu description, but I found it (and more of that healthy bok choy) in this elegant yet inexpensive entrée. This is a dish I'd come back for.

A few sides are offered à la carte. We were curious to sample classic Mandarin fried rice ($4), a sharing-sized serving that contained half-moons of sausage. I didn't fancy it, but C.C. and Collin dug in and kept happily eating to the last lonely grain.

We'd been eyeing fabulous-looking desserts all evening, so we ordered three of them: tropical trio sorbet ($4), passion-fruit crème brúlée ($5), and caramelized pineapple tart ($4). Of the sorbets, the flavors of lime and guava rang true, but the raspberry had almost no taste at all. The best part of the crème brúlée was the fresh strawberries and raspberries and the two Grand Marnier cookies on the side. The pineapple tart, while fruity and good, was definitely elevated by its accompaniment, a scoop of packed-with-shredded-coconut ice cream.

All the desserts were stunningly presented, but they looked better than they tasted. Variations on that theme marked much of the meal--exquisitely presented but somewhat less than perfect beneath its perfect exterior.

Open 5-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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