Location: Eastern Market
Rating: 4 out of 5
Summary: A superb showcase of the area’s best seasonal flavors with minor mis-steps in execution
As the blue crab season winds down, we were glad to have finally made our way to The Chesapeake Room, one of few restaurants we hadn’t sampled on Barrack’s Row. Usually when we’re on 8th St, we have a different restaurant in mind or look at the menu and opt for a cheaper option (there are plenty around). Yet, the open-aired seating at the bar and cozy atmosphere of the back patio complimented the night’s weather so well that we couldn’t resist. In hindsight, we can’t imagine why it took us so long to make the trip.
Before we had even started our dining experience, it was obvious that one of the highlights of The Chesapeake Room was the ambiance. The open air seating was lovely, the deep, atlantic blue walls and rich wood moulding offset by the candles. The atmosphere was casual, but refined. We sat on the patio, complete with ceiling fans and rolling upholstered arm chairs. Our server bent over backwards to find the right bottle of wine to match our first thoughts for entrees and sold us on more than one of our ultimate selections.
Our first order was the Cucumber soup, freshly pureed cucumber with sour cream and parsley. Crisp and light, the soup had a surprisingly full body for that with a cucumber-base. This was thanks in part to the addition of sour cream that also lent some pleasant tang without dominating the cucumber flavor. The aftertaste had a slight spice and brought out a great finish on the soup. If you usually don’t partake in sour cream, we recommend you simply ignore the fact that it’s there and enjoy the combination, only a slight tang from the cream catching on our tongues. Besides enjoying the soup itself, it was refreshing to have a chilled soup that didn’t have a tomato base and reminded us what we loved best about summer.
For our second order, we chose the Cream of crap soup, a creamy mix of lump crab and cayenne pepper. While there wasn’t a large amount of actual crab in the soup, the crustacean’s flavor shown through brightly and what crab we did enjoy was wonderfully delicate. WIth a full body that didn’t weigh down our palate, this was one of the better versions of this classic dish that we have encountered this summer.
With the name Chesapeake Room, we would have been remised not to have ordered the Maryland crab cakes, two cakes of lump crab topped with a small amount of whole grain mustard creme and served with a watercress salad, house slaw and house mac-n-cheese. The crab cakes had little filler and were bound by a a black pepper and mayo combination, allowing the succulent flavor of the quality crab to boldly shine through without any extras getting in the way. The mustard creme topping the cakes complimented the crab well and thankfully the amount of sauce didn’t drown out the fresh crustacean. Unfortunately, everything else of the plate seemed like a throw-away after thought, the mac-n-cheese having a grainy texture and very thin body. While we appreciated the attention given to the crab, too often restaurants follow this pattern of serving two crab cakes and leaving you with nothing else on the plate to look forward to.
For our final plate, we decided on the Eastern shore bourbon & honey glazed farmhouse chicken, served with a mix of jasmine rice, sautéed green apples, white raisins, arugula and topped with a honey curry sauce. Served bone-in, the chicken was tender and a joy to eat, the glazing on the skin highlighting the sweetness of the chicken with notes of honey. The honey curry sauce covering the bird seemed like a forced combination and, while the chicken tasted well enough with the it, each aspect of the sauce seemed to compete with each other. The jasmine rice mixed with small pieces of green apple and red onion gave the dish a soft, sweet/tart mixed character that we had seen attempted before, but not successfully executed until now.
The Chesapeake Room prides itself on bringing an organic, sustainable & free range dining experience while bringing to life the natural & fresh taste of each season. Everything we were served whole-heartily supported their boast and, combined with on of the most inviting atmospheres in the area, put it in our minds as one of the better restaurants available on Barracks row. Although some items on the plates could be improved or given more attention, the meal overall sold us on the idea of coming back again before the end of the blue crab season. It may not be the cheapest option on 8th St, but it’s hard to argue that you don’t get your money’s worth.