Some foodies, including myself, have issues with the extensive menu at the Blue Dolphin Seafood Bar and Grill in Gambrills, Md. - there are just too many choices. However, the vast selection appears to be a hit here in western Anne Arundel County, where the eatery is in its infancy.
The casual, friendly atmosphere is a perfect match for the unpretentious but satisfying fare.
Blue Dolphin mussels ($10.95) are steamed in a Thai red curry sauce and coconut milkand served with a toasted baguette. Fresh, plump mussels were steamed to perfection. The sauce was flavorful but not overwhelming and made a nice broth for dipping the crispy bread.
The menu insert offered 12 maki rolls under "new hors d'oeuvres," ranging from lobster tempura to smoked salmon to vegetable to crab-and-avocado roll.
The Blue Dolphin roll ($8.95) was really uramaki - with the rice on the outside rather than the seaweed nori. The key to good sushi is freshness, and this was very fresh. Flavorful sticky rice and very tender nori surrounded fresh, succulent tuna. A variety of accompaniments, including wasabi, let you set the tone.
A wide range of specialty salads is available, as well as an unending family salad, which is greens tossed with vegetables, feta cheese, shaved Parmesan and a house dressing, served with breadsticks.
Everyday main plates are served with two sides and bread and butter.
Rockfish, flounder, orange roughy, tuna, salmon and swordfish usually are available prepared a variety of ways, as are scallop, shrimp and oyster platters. A broiled or fried seafood platter touts shrimp, scallops, stuffed oyster, crab cake and a flounder fillet.
Stuffed soft-shell crabs ($31.95) are two large crabs stuffed with crab imperial and baked. The crab imperial was thick, with large chunks of sweet crab meat, not overly rich, and expertly seasoned. The soft-shell crab was not as crisp as with the usual preparation but still added an interesting and flavorful texture variation.
Mushroom caps stuffed with crab ($25.95) are six decent-size broiled caps. The sweet flavor of the crab meat was obscured by the binding, and a little less time under the broiler would have helped.
Dinner specials are offered daily; on a recent Friday evening, there were six: whole stuffed lobster, surf and turf, roasted duck, whole flounder, seafood combination, and shrimp and mussels fra diavolo.
The duck ($14.95) was half a bird, roasted and topped with an orange glaze, served with two sides. Overall, it was quite tasty, but the skin was fatty and jellylike. It took a lot of work to get to the meat.
Blue Dolphin's version of surf and turf is a 10-ounce New York strip topped with an Athenian vegetable sauce and served with three jumbo tempura shrimp.
Sides include cole slaw, chunky apple sauce or the usual starch offerings. Sauteed spinach with garlic, feta and olive oil was a nice offering except the kitchen left the stems on the spinach.
After you get through the bounty of sea offerings, there are six cuts of steak, including a popular prime rib, as well as veal, lamb, pork, chicken and pasta plates.
Sandwiches include crab cake, soft-shell crab, fried oyster, shrimp salad or an old-fashioned American hamburger.
There are a whopping 15 desserts (most at $4.95), including standards such as cheesecake and apple, chocolate cream and lemon meringue pie. Baklava was bursting with chopped nuts and wasn't overly sweet.
On the down side, the phyllo was a little tough. Carrot cake was four thin layers, which allowed for extra layers of wonderful cream cheese frosting. The thin cake layers and the abundance of the flavorful frosting did make it hard to discern much real cake flavor, though.
Bread pudding and rice pudding ($2.95) also are available.
The restaurant delivers a vibrant selection of wines, cocktails and beer in the dining room or in an adjacent large lounge.
RESTAURANT: Blue Dolphin Seafood Bar & Grill, 1166 Route 3 South, Gambrills, Md.; 410/721-9081; bluedolphingrill.com
HOURS: Open daily; lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner 4 p.m. to 11 p.m..
PRICES: Soups/salads $6.95 to $13.95; appetizers $6.95 to $23.95; sandwiches $7.50 to $14.95; entrees $8.95 to $43.95; additional sides $2.95 to $3.95; desserts $4.95
RESERVATIONS: Accepted but not required
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible