2400 Boston Street, Baltimore, 410-675-4565
Baltimore’s Canton district is booming. Where once you found lifeless storage buildings and empty lots you now find a giant Safeway grocery store, stylish patisseries and the renovated American Can Co. building, where we came upon Atlantic-the newest offering from Charm City restaurateurs Spike and Charlie Gjerde.
We arrived a bit late for our reservations, but the host was good enough to accommodate us without trouble. This might explain why our party of four (my wife Mel and I, along with old pals Greg and Cindy Dohler) was seated at a large, round table for eight. But let’s not get too picky here. The decor around our very large table was quite imaginative.
Atlantic, as one might anticipate, has a nautical theme, but not the typical cordage and brass-lamp look. The effect here is more subtle and cosmopolitan, employing large sculpted panels that vaguely suggest the sea. Lighting in the main dining area was a little bright for my taste.
Within minutes, we were served slices of fresh bread. Greg, our budding wine aficianado, selected a bottle of Spanish red wine-a 1997 Tinto Pesquera-quite the plucky choice considering that seafood was in our future, but a fine one nonetheless. We sipped, nibbled, then ordered appetizers.
Mel and I split a warm mushroom tart with creamy garlic sauce, which came with a fine fresh salad of baby greens. The tart was rich and delicious and about the right size for a two-person appetizer. Cindy ordered the Atlantic caesar salad with a Parmesan crisp on top. The salad was fine but it was the big, thin Parmesan crisp that was memorable. Greg went for the spicy mussels steamed in Riesling and saffron-plump, fresh and absolutely delicious (although I could imagine the spiciness taking some palates where they’d rather not go).
Then came the main courses. My salmon, served over creamy spinach was sumptuous, despite the initial bite that seemed too salty. Normally, I enjoy salmon cooked through, but this medium-well rendition proved better, being simultaneously richer and lighter than fully-cooked salmon. Mel had the pan-roasted halibut served on a potato and leek cake, with stewed zucchini and oysters. The fish was cooked perfectly and simply, and not overly primped. The potato cake was also good, somewhat crispy on the outside and full of savory leeks on the inside-although I would have wanted it more boldly spiced.
Cindy ordered one of the “Small Plate” selections. These are less substantial than the entrees (and significantly cheaper, too), but the chef has a lot of fun with them. Cindy’s crabby sampler suggested the oft-parodied affectations of French nouvelle cuisine. Like the little mound of crab corn salad and the little mound of warm shredded-crab dip, the crabcake was mouthwatering but could have been eaten in one big bite. As for Greg, he ordered the pan-seared scallops with fresh mushroom ravioli, autumn vegetables and truffle butter. The moist, plump mollusks came topped with a nicely browned, garlicky crust-a gallant touch.
For dessert, I enjoyed a liqueur: sambuca with four roasted coffee beans floating in it. The taste was as subtle as a marching band at point-blank range. Mel had cake topped with berries, which was fair but relatively pedestrian. Cindy hit the jackpot with a chocolate tart that everyone found exceptional. It was uberchocolatey and rich. Within one minute, it was also gone. Greg’s chocolate mousse lacked flair, however, and was too thick. It was the Dick Cheney of chocolate mousses.
To this point, I have made little mention of the totally first-rate service. The various servers arrived and departed with efficiency and friendliness. (I had read in one early newspaper review that the service at Atlantic was under par-just the opposite from what we experienced.)
In the end, I would go back to Atlantic, maybe next time for the “filet mignon” of tuna with wine sauce, the lobster pan roast, the Thai Cobb salad or a selection from the raw bar. Until then, I’ll just be working off my-er, Cindy’s-chocolate tart.
Getting to Atlantic from the Canton waterfront is easy. Just follow Boston St. (which runs along the waterfront) to the giant, glowing American Can Co. building. Open daily for lunch 11 a.m.– 3 p.m.; dinner 5:30–10 p.m. (weekends 5:30–11 p.m.). Appetizers $4.95–$13.95; entrees $16.95–$27; desserts $6; wines $24–$78 per bottle. Major credit cards accepted. Reservations required.