Town and Country
A "City" Seafood Restaurant Comes to Baltimore County
This location is closed
Not precisely a new restaurant, City Crab and Seafood Co. represents a revamping and retooling by the owners of the little-lamented Towne Hall. Turns out, the restaurateurs had a winning template to draw on all the time. This new City Crab and Seafood is a near replica, menu-wise, of a successful same-named restaurant operating on Park Avenue South in Manhattan. Maybe the idea of bringing down to Greenspring Station a New Yorker's version of a Maryland seafood restaurant seems too much like carrying coals to Newcastle, but most people don't care where restaurants come from, as long as they're good. And City Crab is a pleasure-giving honey of a restaurant.
I hadn't been to this space since it was Harvey's, the first restaurant I ever went to where the hostess refused to seat us until our "whole party" had arrived. Never went back. The redesigned space looks smashing. The bar and its adjoining lounge area have the feel of a swanky airport lounge, with a predominance of beiges and browns. The black-clad wait staff look pretty spiffy, too. The main dining room is long, with roomy high-backed booths running along both sides (think Lucy at the Brown Derby). I thought this room was overbright, but I almost always do.
Since I completely missed the Towne Hall days, I'm not sure how much of that old menu has been carried over into City Crab's. Yet, it was easy enough to look online at Michelle Gienow's City Paper review of Towne Hall (Dish, Jan. 2) to learn that at least a handful of items are apparently holdovers, including the crispy Atlantic calamari (still good) and the deluxe seafood cobb salad (still not).
After chewing through some very uninspiring rolls (isn't Stone Mill Bakery, like, right there?), our family of four ordered the City Crab Pu-Pu Platter ($14.95), which gave us ample tastings of calamari, onion ribbons, spring rolls, buffalo shrimp, and rare ahi tuna. We enjoyed the fun presentation, which included a funny little fire in the middle for . . . doing what with--ruining rare tuna? We did like most of what was on the platter, although I'm getting a little weary of seeing these ubiquitous appetizers on so many menus. And the accompanying sauces were uniformly not as well turned out as the stuff they were meant for. Eventually, I stopped dipping altogether, except for the lemon aioli that accompanied the calamari.
I'll blame a strong martini for our not having included a crab cake among our entrées. Two of us ordered from among the menu's eight or so "fresh catch" choices (which can be grilled, blackened, sautéed, or oven-roasted), selecting for each one of five house preparations. Older brother ordered his customary Chilean sea bass ($19.95), grilled, prepared with seasoned pecans, leeks, red pepper, and green onions. I tried a broiled rockfish ($18.95) flaked with a horseradish and apple crust. We were both very happy, but the rockfish was like buttah. Our waiter, I should add here, offered reasonable and clear advice in pairing preparations with catches.
But I think old Dad lucked out with his pub steak (a steal at $15.95), which turned out to be a perfectly cooked piece of juicy red meat, broiled with a smashing peppery coating. Truly gorgeous. Among the accompanying side dishes, the whipped potatoes came off somewhat better than the too-chewy french fries.
As for the seafood cobb salad ($12.95) that Mom ordered, she and I are going to have to agree to disagree. I don't question, let alone begrudge, her enjoyment of it, but I just didn't like its looks. There are as many variations of the cobb salad as there are kitchens in America, but what it should be is a chance for the kitchen to overdo it a little, and I thought this one was underprepared and dull-looking.
Our table ordered two desserts, which we were told were made on the premises. The crème brúlée ($4.95), although generously sized, was disappointingly yolky. But no problem with the fruit cobbler ($4.95), which was crunchy and sweet and gooey, served with good vanilla ice cream. I'd order it every time.
My brother had already been several times to City Crab and Seafood, having enjoyed each time, and my parents felt sure they would return. I recommend it, and while one could always wish for a little bit more imagination or ingenuity, I'd settle for eating well-prepared food in a pretty room any day.
Waiting for my whole party to arrive: Omnivore@citypaper.com.