- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Entering the Commodore John Barry is like stepping onto a distant yet familiar land.

The restaurant and bar, nestled in the new O’Callaghan Hotel on Annapolis’ West Street, is named for Commodore John Barry, the Irish-born Revolutionary War hero who often is called the “father of the U.S. Navy.” Barry, who lived from 1745 to 1803, received commission No. 1 in the newly formed Navy after independence. It is an appropriate name for a restaurant in the elegant Irish-owned hotel in a city proud of its own naval heritage.

Chef Ken Reyes’ menu features modern American cuisine with Irish and Chesapeake Bay influences. Lunch and dinner are served daily.

Salads range from Caesar, with romaine hearts tossed with Parmesan cheese and croutons and served with grilled blackened chicken or shrimp, to spinach salad with warm Brie-and-walnut medallions tossed in warm maple-bacon dressing.

A crab dip made with Maryland crab, spices and cream cheese is served piping hot with a selection of fruits and French bread.

Small plates include a couple of traditional Irish favorites, such as lamb stew and shepherd’s pie. The stew features lamb cooked slowly and simmered with carrots, celery and potatoes. The shepherd’s pie contains ground sirloin cooked slowly with carrots and peas, topped with mashed potatoes, then baked until brown.

There are five main plates: crab cakes, Cashel blue chicken, broiled rockfish, a center-cut 10-ounce New York strip steak and an herb-crusted rack of lamb.

The crab cakes ($24) were served with a bed of Irish mashed potatoes, sauteed vegetables laced with a garlic aioli and a chipotle tomato glaze. The crab cakes were generous in size and contained little filler, but the potatoes were cold. The other vegetables were piping hot. The glaze was a nice change unless you are a fan of tartar sauce.

The lamb ($24), also served with mashed potatoes, arrived with large asparagus and was dressed with a port jus and mint oil. The lamb was cooked perfectly to the requested medium-rare and was tender and juicy.

The outside was expertly seared, so there was plenty of extra flavor and a little crunch. The sauce was rich and added another dimension to the lamb. The mint oil was an unusual touch that added just the right richness. The champ potatoes were hot and flavorful. Because of its size, the asparagus was still tender on the inside, unlike some limp, dry roasted asparagus we recently were served elsewhere.

Seasonal specials also are offered. On this winter night, there were three selections. First, the Dublin Bay broiled seafood platter ($22) included a salmon filet, sea scallops and shrimp, served with a parsley caper sauce with saffron rice and sauteed vegetables on the side. If there was a complaint about this dish, it would be that the seasoning was the same on all the seafood. Some might like the consistency, but if you have three different kinds of seafood, why not showcase them differently?

Second, a 12-ounce French-rib pork chop is served with apple-cider stuffing and rosemary demi-glaze and green beans.

Third, rockfish imperial comes with seasonal vegetables and choice of potato.

Desserts are not made in-house but are made fresh by a local pastry chef. Chocolate Decadence seems to be on everyone’s menu these days, so we opted for the tiramisu and Irish gaudette. The tiramisu, probably because it is made off-site, was more like a cake, but it was moist and delicious, with all the traditional flavors. Though we were warned that the gaudette might be too dry for our liking, we were surprised by its simple flavor.

The lunch menu lists eight standard sandwiches, the portobello ($9) being the most interesting. A marinated mushroom is served on a toasted roll with Swiss cheese and avocado, topped with greens, tomato and sliced red onion.

The quesadilla ($9) is chicken breast coated in chipotle-orange glaze with queso blanco, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses; avocado; jalapenos; and pico de gallo over chayote slaw.

The O’Callaghan club sandwich ($9) is a triple-decker with sliced ham, turkey and bacon with lettuce, tomato and cheese served with house fries.

A children’s menu is available upon request.

RESTAURANT: Commodore John Barry, 174 West St., Annapolis; 410/ 263-7700

HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; dinner 5 to 11 p.m. daily

PRICES: Sandwiches, $8 to $15; soups and salads, $5 to $11; appetizers, $ 9 to $12; entrees, $18 to $24

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

RESERVATIONS: Accepted

PARKING: Valet parking free for restaurant patrons

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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