Dining Out: Bistro at South River is well worth effort to find
By JANICE GARY, For The Capital
Capital Gazette Communications (Click here for original article)
Think you know every restaurant in the Annapolis area? Then think again.
Chances are you probably aren't aware of one little gem within putting distance of the South River Colony Shopping Center in Edgewater.
The Bistro at South River, part of the clubhouse complex at the Golf Club at South River, has been providing creative cuisine for more than two years now under the supervision of Executive Chef Quintin West.
Although the dining room is open to the public, unless you live in Colony Crossing or are a golfer you'd be hard pressed to find it. The official address is Solomons Island Road, but the building is not located on the road nor are there any signs on Route 2 directing you to the restaurant. (Even Mapquest forgets to tell you to turn off Solomons Island Road onto Colony Crossing Drive to find it.)
You'd think the folks at the Golf Club want to keep it a secret. Well, no longer.
On a rainy Friday evening, we turned onto Colony Crossing Drive and easily found the clubhouse, where the Bistro bar crowd was in full swing. Despite the weather, there had been a tournament that afternoon, and the participants were celebrating.
We found a reason to celebrate, too.
A large chalkboard announced half-price bottles of wine on Fridays and Saturdays. While a lot of restaurants offer this special mid-week, you're very lucky to find it on the weekends. We made a note of it as we were led into the dining room.
The dining room is casual and clubby, with dark wood and large windows overlooking the course. A large television placed over the fireplace had the NCAA basketball games on. Now I happen to be one of those people who believe televisions should be relegated to the bar, but at our request, the waitress turned the sound off.
We settled in to peruse the wine menu while waiting for the rest of our party. The Bistro has a good selection of red, white and sparkling wines, available by both the glass and bottle. We chose a bottle of Achery Summit Pinot Noir 2007, and were rewarded with a fruity, full-bodied pinot, made all the sweeter by knowing we were enjoying a $90 wine at $45.
The bread basket arrived at the same time as our Edgewater-based companions, who had been unaware of the restaurant prior to this visit. The bread was addictive - hot, oniony mini-baguettes with a sweet, almost pretzel-like flavor. Given the quality of the bread, it would have been nice if we had a ramekin of whipped butter instead of pre-packaged servings, but that didn't stop us from making the most of it.
The Bistro serves an All Day Menu, which offers diners the option of either burgers and sandwiches or full-course entrees throughout the day.
The salad and sandwich choices are plentiful, offering such creative choices as Open Face Mediterranean Chicken with basil, artichokes and fresh mozzarella ($10) and Grilled Scallop and Chick Pea Salad ($12) as well as Crab Cake and Angus sliders. Calorie counts are listed next to the lighter salad and sandwich items for those who want to keep track. It was surprising how many of the delicious-sounding selections were under 300 calories.
But we were not there to count calories or have a light lunch. My companions and I came to experience West's dinner creations, which ranged from the decidedly non-diet Maple Bacon Wrapped Sirloin with scalloped potatoes ($22) to Chilean Sea Bass in a
lobster cream sauce ($26).We had a hard time deciding on where to start considering all the enticing appetizers and soups on the menu. But in the end, giving restraint a nod, all four of us decided to share the Lobster Mac 'n' Cheese ($6 side, $12 full).
The dish was a creative take on an old classic, made with rotini pasta and chunks of lobster blended with lobster sauce and aged cheese. The savory flavor of the lobster sauce dominated with just a dash of cheese. I would have liked a little more cheese in the dish, but my companions raved over the unique flavor of the sherry and thyme-laced lobster sauce.
The Bistro offers several interesting steak preparations. One diner chose the Flat Iron Steak with grilled onions ($23) while another diner decided to follow the recommendation of our waitress and order the Chicken Marsala. I decided on the Broiled Sea Scallops and Lump Blue Crabmeat ($18), while the remaining diner also went the seafood route, choosing Stuffed Tilapia Imperial ($21).
The Flat Iron Steak was tender and flavorful, thanks to a lovely citrus marinade. The dish came with a baked potato and a plentiful serving of grilled balsamic-sauced vegetables. Although the steak was a hearty 10-ounce serving, not a bite was left over for the doggie bag.
Seafood dishes with imperial sauce run the risk of being heavy and over-sauced, but not here. The diner who ordered the Stuffed Tilapia Imperial raved about combination of jerk seasoning on the fish, the fresh crab meat and the imperial sauce. She was especially impressed with the ingredients complemented one another.
My selection, the Broiled Sea Scallops and Lump Blue Crabmeat, was a much lighter and simpler presentation, prepared with a white wine and chive butter sauce that let the flavors of the seafood take center stage.
Although the scallops and crab were sweet and fresh, I found myself wanting a little more oomph to the dish. The solution? A little dab of that amazing lobster sauce, which our waitress quickly provided upon request.
The standout of the night was the Chicken Marsala, featuring a lightly breaded chicken breast in a mushroom sherry sauce served over linguine. The sherry-based sauce is the key to success in this dish, and the Bistro's version is sweet, rich and savory - an exceptional interpretation of a classic.
Our waitress, Jen, announced that since we were first-time guests we got a free shared dessert. Who can argue with that?
All desserts are made in-house by sous chef Bill Jankowski, so of course we had to try more than one.
The creme brulee was accompanied with fresh berries and was one of the best I've ever had. The Bailey's chocolate cheesecake was creamy and laced with just the right amount of liqueur although I thought the Oreo cookie crust overpowered the delicate filling. But one of my dining companions disagreed, saying "the concept of too much chocolate is lost on me." So be it, chocolate lovers.
West has put together a fine team in the Bistro's kitchen and his handiwork shows. The restaurant plans on renovating to expand the dining room this fall with an enclosed patio and more private dining area.
With an all-day menu that fulfills whatever craving you might have at whatever time of day, the Bistro at South River is well worth the effort to find. And closer than you think.
Janice Gary is a freelance writer based in Annapolis.