- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Tsunami has delivered a new wave of energy to the Annapolis dining scene and has also given a boost to a once-derelict part of the city.

Opened in 1999, this chic and trendy restaurant at 51 West St. is the joint effort of Jody Danek, Kristin Lewis and Gavin and Julie Buckley.

Tsunami has a pulse and a beat and a high-volume buzz that is hard to find in “Naptown.” However, the buzz may turn some people away. Because of a large, well-attended stainless steel bar in the center of the dining room it is often hard to hear what your companion has to say. Also, seating is cramped, so don’t expect a whole lot of privacy.

Once the food arrives, however, you will forget about these two negatives.

A menu consisting of Pacific Rim cuisine is prepared by executive chef J.J. Minetola, formerly of Equinox in Northwest.

For the sushi lover, master sushi chef Stanley Hsu prepares 50 varieties of nigiri, hosomaki rolls, sumo rolls and sashimi.

The salmon avocado hosomaki rolls ($4, six per serving) were fresh and not chewy tough, a flaw in many sushi offerings and a pet peeve.

Other first tastes worth a try are the red curry mussels ($8) with crispy ginger. The mussels, although small, were plump and not overcooked. The red curry broth is the real star with this dish, packing just the right amount of punch and a whole lot of flavor. We would have liked some bread — admittedly not trendy — to sop up the excellent broth.

Goat cheese and spinach dumplings with red wine vinaigrette; pan-seared foie gras with pina colada gelee and shaved macadamia; and the jumbo lump crab Vietnamese spring roll with ponzu, red chili and citrus jellies round out the starters.

The salads are taken to new heights. Baby spinach is dressed with cashews, Asian pears and goat cheese. The Thai Caesar is adorned with wonton strips. Tsunami house salad is drizzled with ginger scallion vinaigrette.

Diners can choose from 12 main plates and usually two or three daily specials.

The kitchen gets high marks for bringing different varieties of fish to an area where rockfish and salmon are the norm.

The Hawaiian uku ($30) was served with sweet and sour fennel and white sweet potato mash. The solid white meat of the fish was perfectly flaky. The flavor was delicate but didn’t get lost in the accompaniments.

The crisp fennel was a nice variation in texture, but we were most impressed by the white sweet potato mash. The subtle sweetness was a perfect contrast for the fish, and it really added another dimension to the dish.

Other seafood offerings include a brown-butter roasted monkfish that is served with a sweet potato pancake, applewood bacon and a passion fruit-lime coulis, plus a Chilean sea bass that is glazed with mustard miso and comes with braised leeks.

Kaitaifi tiger prawns ($23) were presented with lump crab, corn salsa and tomato nectar. The five large shrimp were covered with a thin, string-like coconut coating and then fried. The salsa and tomato nectar served as a wonderful condiment for the crisp, coconut-flavored prawns.

Asian barbecued roasted duck breast ($25) was served with baby bok choy and caramelized onions. The duck breast was nicely medium rare. The big surprise was the barbecue sauce.

The word “barbecue” usually scares me when attached to anything but ribs or brisket, because most sauces are overly thick and sickly sweet. This sauce was light, with a burst of fresh Asian flavors and just enough heat to be enjoyable, but not enough to overpower the duck.

Tsunami puts a twist on steaks, as well. A burnt-sugar-chili New York strip is served with foie gras port reduction and goat cheese mashed potatoes; a wok-seared pepper tenderloin comes with honey balsamic syrup and horseradish oil.

Desserts are all made in house. While coconut creme brulee and mango sorbet were tempting, we went with a brownie torte with chocolate coconut ice cream. The brownie was rich with a fabulous nut filling, and the ice cream was flavorful and light enough to provide balance.

In the spring, the partners plan on opening two new restaurants nearby. Metropolitan will showcase modern American plates and Lemon Grass will feature Thai cuisine.

RESTAURANT: Tsunami, 51 West St., Annapolis; 410/990-9868

HOURS: Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner Monday through Sunday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

PRICES: Soups and salads $4 to $8; sandwiches $6 to $8; sushi $3 to $10; appetizers $7 to $18; dinner entrees $17 to $28

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

RESERVATIONS: Recommended

PARKING: Street or nearby garage

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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