Issue: July 2005
Fin House Fare

Yellowfin Steak & Fish House on the South River is party central gourmet.

 

     It was a tough decision from the start; go to downtown Annapolis and pretend it’s summer by drinking frozen margaritas and eating Mexican food . . . or should we venture to the South River to curb my seafood craving? I love a good margarita, but this time, thanks to the below-freezing temperature outside, the prospect of a hearty glass of wine and savory seafood won the toss. So John and I called our summertime Mexican food cohorts Rick and Joan Bullock, and told them to meet us at Yellowfin Steak & Fish House for dinner. Yellowfin opened several years ago and was named one of the top new restaurants by the Restaurant Association of Maryland. It quickly became the new hot spot for Friday happy hour and for swanky upscale dining.

     We heard Yellowfin fills up quickly on the weekends, so John called early Friday for a reservation. It was a good thing, too, because when we arrived happy hour was roaring, the dining room was full and the noise level was set to earsplitting. It’s definitely different than most other Annapolis restaurants. It’s brightly colored (read: yellow) and features ultra-modern fish sculptures, murals and decorations, along with classic maritime paintings and pictures. Downstairs there is a large banquet room that can hold up to 150 people, but the main dining room has a roomy, cozy feeling, despite being crowded with tables. The west side of the dining room is lined with windows looking out on the South River.

     Our table was awfully close to the bar, which, when we arrived at 8 p.m. was still marked by a raucous crowd. By the time our appetizers arrived, though, the noise had died down considerably, enabling us to converse at normal volume. Picking our appetizers was tough, considering a selection of sushi that included tuna tartare; seaweed salad topped with a choice of salmon, mussels, seared tuna or smoked eel; plus a variety of salads and soups (a nearby diner said the drunken blue crab soup was excellent). This was all in addition to regular starters like crab and artichoke dip, little neck clams and coconut shrimp. In the end we ordered a “shrimptini” cocktail and a mini brie. The shrimptini included six jumbo shrimp-grilled, then chilled, and served with an extra-spicy cocktail sauce that brought tears to all of our eyes, yet had a fantastically sweet taste. The brie was fresh and mild and was served with a warm orange-blossom honey topping that sweetened it almost to perfection.

     Dinner and wine selections were no easy choices either, the wine list was long (I ended up with a nice, dry pinot grigio) and entrees ran the gamut from lobster to steak salad. John rarely resists a good filet mignon though, and tonight was no exception. It was deliciously on target, juicy and flavorful and a perfect medium rare. Rick chose the seared sea scallops, which were lightly blackened and done just right. They were plump, tasty and served on a bed of jasmine rice with a light and airy roasted leek and Pommery-mustard cream sauce that complemented the dish nicely.

     Joan and I both opted for the yellowfin tuna special of the evening. It was to be served rare, encrusted in black peppercorns and served with garlic mashed potatoes in a Gorgonzola and mushroom marsala cream sauce and steamed broccolini. The mashed potatoes were out of this world. The tuna, however, arrived terribly overdone; there wasn’t an inch of pink left in the center. After we both mustered through several bites we decided to send it back. Our waitress rushed back to the kitchen to remedy the situation and returned in a few minutes with fresh plates of tuna, mashed potatoes and broccolini. This time the tuna started out right: nicely seared outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft inside, but the center was cold. Not luke-warm cold; I mean just-came-out-of the-fridge cold. But it still tasted good, and considering the restaurant serves sushi, I wasn’t concerned about eating a few bites of raw tuna.

     We had a fine time laughing about the tuna debacle while we savored dessert (a phenomenal creme brulee and a piece of heavenly chocolate toffee mousse cake) and a few cups of coffee. By this time the restaurant had cleared out considerably, and even though the waitstaff was cleaning up for the evening, we never felt rushed to leave; our waitress still checked on us regularly and never pressured us to cough up the bill so she could go home. We’ll definitely be back this summer to watch the sun set and to enjoy a nice margarita.

     Yellowfin Steak & Fish House is located on the north bank of the South River, just inside the Route 2 bridge. Complimentary dockage (if space is available) is just before the bridge at Liberty Marina (410-266-5633) or overnight for $1.50/ft. Yellowfin is open daily for dinner; brunch is served on Sundays. Entrees $16–$36; Sunday brunch $12–$22; lounge/bar menu $4–$18. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends. Major credit cards accepted. 410-573-1333; www.yellowfinrestaurant.com.