On the Bay,
if you say, "It's a breeze," you would probably mean "a good wind." Or following an examination, you may mean, "It was a snap." But if you had dined recently at Breeze, the restaurant in Loews Annapolis Hotel on West Street, you undoubtedly would be getting close to the slang expression meaning "cheerful and casual."
And that's not all. You might be breathless after facing the Breeze Restaurant and its ultimately urban chic interior décor-so clean, free of bric-a-brac and in tune with nature's colors as well as central urban Europe of the '30s. The tissue-like long curtains move with a gentle sway over enormous panes of glass that discreetly suggest you "dine, drink and enjoy."
Let's get on with that trio. The irresistible menu offers many appetizers including Maryland cream of crab soup with jumbo lump crab and lobster oil. We succumbed to that temptation and found it to be light, lush and unique. We also chose the calamari and shrimp fry with fennel, caper berries and dipping sauces. Encased in a minimal batter, the calamari was moist and tender; the shrimp, also lightly battered, were from Northern Atlantic waters. Both were accompanied by gargantuan caper berries on long stems with two dipping sauces, one spice and the other soy-based. All together, it was an excellent duet.
Also on the list of appetizer selections were the grilled hearts of romaine Caesar with shaved parmesan and garlic croutons. The grilling only enhanced the difference between the crunchy cool lettuce and the slightly sautéed outer leaves. The dressing was of the highest Caesar order; the shaved parmesan was fresh and piquant; and the croutons were definitely made on-site in the kitchen.
For entrées we tried the crispy rockfish that encased a skin-on fish, retaining juiciness and flavor, with a pleasant choice of fried green tomatoes, mini fingerling potatoes, asparagus salad and shallot vinaigrette. Our other selection was the pan-seared day boat scallops (caught within one day and truly fresh) with garlic-mashed potatoes and wild mushrooms.
Fortunate to be the guests of friends on another occasion, we also ate what is identified as Executive Chef Brad Buss' surf and turf and surf, with a winning combination of Maryland crab cake, petite filet mignon and grilled shrimp. It's a notable crab cake receiving kudos from patrons who order crab cakes as their number one menu choice. The crab cakes are of excellent quality- sizable, gently handled and redolent with large lumps of back fin meat, then broiled to mouth-watering perfection. The same crab cake is available as a pair from the entrée selections and as a sandwich on the lunch menu.
In addition, we were charmed by the tasting plates that can be shared as an appetizer or an entrée for one. In this era of smaller appetites and portion size, we discovered a variety of combinations of delectable edibles. Ten varieties have been concocted, and we dove into three: "Shell Shocked," shrimp scampi and curried mussels; "Crab! Crab! Crab!" seared Maryland crab cake, baked crab hash and crab soup with lobster oil and a touch of caviar-all excellent and well worth the adventure. These portions are served on unusual shaped plates of vibrant color.
If you seek different, interesting and personal lunch choices, try the Inter "action" Bar where you can choose from stir-fry, pasta, salads, dessert and beverage for $12. Breakfast can be a small or serious start to the day with more than a dozen dishes, including bread, berries, yogurt and granola, Belgian waffles, steak and eggs, omelets, bagel and lox, vanilla brioche and much more.
Loews General Manager Larry Beiderman has assembled a talented restaurant staff led by Buss who is from the New York Restaurant School in New York City. He began his professional career at the Plaza Hotel in N.Y.C., followed by other top-tier posts with the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons in Tokyo and San Francisco.
Director of food and beverage Reggie Stephens noted that Breeze is particularly proud of its Robert Mondavi wine selections, although the wine list is extensive and varied among many vintners. We were pleased with our choice, the Mondavi Select Chardonnay.
Stephens also noted that the restaurant offers a full children's menu as well as favorites such as crayons and coloring books.
With its creative menu, good service and casual high style, Breeze is deservedly becoming well known as a destination restaurant.
In Loews Annapolis Hotel
126 West Street
Appetizers: $6 to $13
Entrees: $16 to $34
Tasting Plates: $19 to $29
Extensive wine list
Breakfast: 7 days, 6:30 - 11 a.m.
Lunch: Mon. - Fri., 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sat. and Sun., Weather Rail Sports Bar
Dinner: 7 days, 5 - 10 p.m.
Reservations recommended but not required
Valet or self-parking on the Loews lot
All major credit cards accepted