Published February 24, 2006, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Copyright © 2006 The Capital, Annapolis, Md.
Dining out: Harry Browne's still merits place among elite
By TERRA WALTERS, For The Capital
There's a lot to be said for being the "go-to guy." The go-to guy is the one who
can be relied upon, the one who can step up, the one people consider when they're
looking for that positive outcome. For more than 25 years, Harry Browne's has been
one of those go-to guys.
A State Circle landmark, this restaurant appeals to a wide variety of diners from
legislators to locals. At any given time, even tourists have the good fortune to
wander away from the dock area and discover this jewel. Even though there have been
some changes at Harry Browne's over the years, they've all been for the good. All
of this is due to the diligent and ongoing efforts of Rusty Romo who learned his
food and restaurant savvy from his Uncle Harry (yes, you guessed it, his Uncle Harry
Browne). Executive Chef James Turner, a graduate of the illustrious Baltimore International
College Institute of Culinary Arts, has brought the menu into the 21st century with
nods to such influences as pan-Asian and contemporary European cuisine.
There are so many goodies to study on the Harry Browne's menu that my dinner companion
and I decided to just order some wine and take our take making our selections. It
was a frosty winter night (one of the few we had) so we decided to go with a red
There are many temptations on the Harry Browne wine list with few apparent bargains;
but if you select carefully, you can find something that will be tasty both for
sipping and for an accompaniment to your meal. The wine list also has a section
of half-bottles for smaller parties or for those who would prefer having a half-bottle
of white or bubbly with appetizers and then switching to red for the main course.
I'm not sure I would pay $25 for a half-bottle of Trefethen cab (as much as I love
it!), but the half-bottle of Ca Montini pinot grigio for $15? That's in the ballpark.
Our choice that evening was the 2002 Morgan syrah ($34) and it served us very well.
The appetizer section of the menu, though limited to seven items, is most compelling.
Two items that we ve previously enjoyed >from that list (Tomato and White Bean Bruschetta
with Olive Tempanade for $8 and the classic rendition of steamed mussels for $10)
took a back seat to our desire to try something new.
Our ultimate choice was the Crispy Fried Oysters with Cucumber and Mizuna Salad
accompanied by a Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce ($13) and we were delighted with the results.
The oysters, encased in a delicious crispy crust were fresh, firm, and pleasantly
briny. The little salad was delectable and the sauce was so good that we have to
admit to dipping a bit of bread into that instead of the olive oil.
Having decided to forgo an after-dinner movie, we two friends of long standing decided
to just enjoy a long and leisurely meal while we indulged ourselves in a couple
of hours of catching up on each other's lives. Consequently, we decided to do the
soup to nuts kind of meal and ordered a salad to share after the appetizer. We settled
on the Caesar Salad with Parmesan Crisps ($8) and our server, Al, kindly divided
it for us and brought the two mini-salads beautifully presented on separate plates.
Ah, those touches! We LOVE those touches that are the mark of schooled and professional
The list of main courses is similarly selective, but choosing among these 11 items
was more difficult than choosing from many much lengthier menus. For example, both
the Vegetable Wellington with Smoked Tomato Coulis ($23) and the Pan Roasted Rockfish
with Grilled Asparagus, Fingerling Potatoes, Salsify and Artichokes with a Shellfish
Saffron Sauce ($28) got serious consideration before losing out to the lamb and
the rib eye.
The Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb ($34) came with brioche, mascarpone cheese zucchini
and yellow squash tart, and a rosemary mint demi-glaze. The lamb was excellent,
perfectly prepared and sufficient for dinner and a sizeable take-home portion. The
tart, inspired in terms of concept, seemed to lack punch. The diner enjoyed the
squashes and cheese but wondered if a different kind of crust might be worth a try.
The rosemary and mint demi-glaze, on the other hand, was sheer perfection.
The diner who was in the mood for steak that evening ordered the rib eye (Ridgefield
Farms Aged Hereford Beef) and had it presented done to the exact requested temperature
( medium-rare, please, but more toward the rare than toward the medium ). The steak
was felicitously accompanied by a crispy garlic risotto cake, tiny English peas,
roasted cipollini onions and morels, and a to-die-for cognac demi-glaze. With enough
steak left for a delicious steak salad for the next-day's lunch, this item was a
bargain at $33.
It is always appreciated when servers recognize one's preferred pace for dining
and get on board with it. Our server, Al, was attentive throughout the evening but
never hovered. As a result, we felt no pressure whatsoever to race through our meal.
Having enjoyed our meal so much thus far, it went without saying that we have to
find a dessert to share. Again, there were several enticements but we settled on
the Crème Brulee Trio ($8) and were rewarded with delicious custardy renditions
of vanilla crème brulee, espresso crème brulee and chocolate.
What else could we do to prolong this exquisite evening? Espresso ($2) for the adventurous
one and decaf ($2) for the other. Uncle Harry, you must be smiling down!
WHEN YOU GO
WHAT: Harry Browne's
WHERE: 66 State Circle, Annapolis
EXECUTIVE CHEF: James Turner
WEB SITE: www.harrybrownes.com
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Saturday for lunch; dinner is served 5:30-10
p.m. Monday-Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; Sunday, 10 a.m. to
3 p.m. for brunch and 4:30-9 p.m. for dinner.
PRICE RANGE OF ENTRÉES: $23-$35
CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards are accepted.
RESERVATIONS: Reservations are accepted and strongly recommended on weekends.
HANDICAPPED ACCESS: Yes