- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Jordan’s Steakhouse touts itself as a rare steakhouse.And rare it is.Jordan’s is a steakhouse that doesn’t feel like a steakhouse. There are wood-paneled walls, but that is where stereotype ends at this trendy romantic establishment in Ellicott City, Md.

The restaurant is as comfy as your own home and just as informal. No jackets are required.

Owners Jordan and Ivette Naftal opened the eatery on Valentine’s Day 2002.

The restaurant fills all three floors of a historic 100-year-old building. The building and surrounding ones made headlines in November 1999 when a six-alarm fire ravaged this portion of historic Main Street. All is pretty much back to normal, and the Naftals are an integral part of the restored downtown.

The Tiber River runs under a portion of Jordan’s, and an old bridge buttress is exposed as part of the wine-cellar room on the restaurant’s main floor. A larger dining room fills the second floor. A smaller room for private parties is on the third floor.

For starters, about two dozen Prince Edward Island mussels ($11) arrived steaming hot. Plenty for a party of two or three, these plump mussels set the tone for a great evening. They had been steamed with white wine, shallots, butter, garlic, herbs and a splash of Pernod, and the sauce was pleasantly thicker than usual.

The garlic bread that accompanies the dish was very tasty. Baked locally, the bread contains pressed garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, and Asiago and Parmesan cheeses.

Other first plates include calamari that is dusted with a white pepper-garlic flour, fried and served with zesty marinara; and a half-dozen hand-picked Blue Point oysters on the half shell that are bathed in a special vinaigrette.

The grilled Caesar salad is the restaurant’s signature salad: Grilled hearts of romaine lettuce are drizzled with the kitchen’s Caesar dressing and served with julienne oven-roasted tomatoes, pignoli nuts and shaved slices of Asiago and Parmesan.

The wedge salad is a quarter head of iceberg lettuce with wedges of tomato and a choice of Caesar, raspberry balsamic vinaigrette, or extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Now to the main event: the steaks.

All steaks are fired in an infrared broiler at 1,800 degrees, giving a flavorful char finish.

Choice or prime cuts are available in 6-ounce petite filet mignon, 12-ounce filet mignon, 16-ounce New York strip, 24-ounce porterhouse or a marinated flank steak.

The “cowboy steak” is available in 18, 24 or 32 ounces.

Served on the bone, the 18-ounce cut ($39) was buttery crisp on the outside and juicy tender on the inside. A blend of cracked peppercorns and coarse sea salt made for a memorable crust. The steak is served with pommes frites (french fries).

What makes pommes frites so different from American fries is that the potatoes are peeled completely and cut into very thin strips. They are then fried not once, but twice, and served with a healthy dose of sea salt and crushed black pepper. These fries are finger-licking good.

Lamb chops ($36) were one of the specials for the evening. Because this is a steakhouse, one should be able to expect expert preparation of lamb as well, and there was no disappointment. The chops had the same wonderful, crisp outside but were the requested medium rare on the inside.

Even more exciting was the sauce. The description made it sound like a simple tomato gravy, but the complexity and depth of the flavors were outstanding. The dish was pulled together with mashed potatoes.

There was nothing unique about the sides: steamed asparagus, steamed broccollini, creamed spinach, sauteed wild mushrooms, rice, baked potato, mashed potato, and potato skins.

Jordan’s has a handful of standouts from the sea.

A special this evening was escolar ($38). This unusual fish has a checkered background, but it was outstanding. Perfectly broiled, the flesh was very white and flaky, the texture softer than expected. The surprise came in its sweetness.

Accompanying the escolar were sesame noodles with a coconut-and-green-curry sauce. This combination really showcased how Jordan’s is trying to offer more than the traditional steakhouse fare. The green curry sauce offered a mild hint of spice, which balanced the sweetness of the fish.

Also available were steamed salmon with a splash of lemon, sushi-quality tuna broiled and brushed with a teriyaki glaze, and a center-cut swordfish steak with a ginger-lime rub.

All fish plates are served with jasmine rice.

Dessert offerings vary from rich to light. Jordan’s tiramisu, chocolate pate and creme brulee offer an opulent end; chocolate martini or melted coconut gelato with strawberries and Grand Marnier bring a touch of sophistication. For those who need just a bite to top off the evening, there are gelato and homemade sorbet. The choices vary; chocolate-chip gelato was rich yet light, with real chocolate rather than pre-formed chips.

Long known for its antiques and historic sites, Ellicott City is about a 15-minute drive from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

RESTAURANT: Jordan’s Steakhouse, 8085 Main St., Ellicott City, Md. 410/461-9776

HOURS: Monday through Thursday 4 to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday till midnight; Sunday brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner 4 to 10 p.m.

PRICES: Soups and salads $6 to $12, appetizers $6 to $14, entrees $21 to $59, desserts $3 to $12

RESERVATIONS: Recommended

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: Street or lots within walking distance

ACCESS: Wheelchair-accessible on first floor only

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