- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lisa’s Small Plates wants you to have fun while you dine.The cozy Stevensville, Md., restaurant and wine bar promotes sharing and trying new foods.

Fairly new to the Eastern Shore dining scene, Lisa’s has internationalized the ever-growing tapas concept by including different flavors and dishes from around the globe.

It offers choices of more than 60 plates.

The menu is broken down into nine categories: classics, comfort, nouvelle, Pacific Rim, Mediterranean, Latin, Chesapeake, vegetarian and pub food.

A classic lobster bisque is spiced lightly with paprika and cloves; laced with chopped lobster; and garnished with creme fraiche, garlic crostini and cream sherry on the side.

Most comfort-food lovers enjoy chicken pot pie. The kitchen braises chicken in a reduced chicken stock with sweet corn, carrots, potatoes, pearl onions, celery and sweet peas. It is then topped with a pastry crust and baked until golden brown.

Braised rabbit ravioli ($8) tops the nouvelle list. Rabbit is braised in a red wine broth, then mixed with peppercorn Boursin cheese and fresh basil and poached in pasta pillows. The filling is very hearty, with nice chunks of tender rabbit. The cheese added a nice flavor but made for a dry filling. Fortunately, the ravioli are presented over a homemade, oven-roasted Roma tomato sauce. The robust flavor of the sauce contrasted nicely with the much more subtle flavor of the ravioli.

From the Pacific Rim is lightly seasoned ahi tuna ($9) seared rare, sliced and served with a wakame salad, soy sauce, wasabi and Chinese mustard sauce. Fortunately, it is not too difficult to find good tuna in this area. More surprising was the excellent wakame — edible kelp — salad. The wakame was crunchy and dressed lightly with sesame oil. The Chinese mustard sauce provides a nice bite if the powerful wasabi is not your thing.

Traditional Mediterranean paella ($13) features chicken, andouille sausage, calamari, shrimp and saffron broth with rice. All of the ingredients were cooked to perfection, even the calamari. The sausage had just the right kick to balance the mild chicken, and the saffron broth added a wonderful richness to the whole dish. This takes a little longer to cook, so order early.

The Latin offering of snapper Vera Cruz ($12) is the fish accompanied by a spicy tomato stew reduced with peppers and cilantro, then steamed in a banana leaf. Whether it was the banana leaf or the chef, the snapper was wonderfully moist and flaky. The tomato stew didn’t seem spicy, but with fish like this, who needs tomatoes?

Under the Chesapeake header is a sliced, pan-seared duck breast ($11) served over tart apple and cranberry chutney. Like everything else here, the duck was cooked properly, and the rich flavor of the meat really stood out. The tart fruit flavors of the chutney made for an excellent accompaniment, but the meat was so wonderful on its own it didn’t need dressing.

A pub favorite, “sliders” are miniburgers seasoned and cooked tavern-style. They are served with dill pickle chips on small potato rolls.

Lisa’s crab puff ($9) is lump crab blended with Old Bay seasoning, sweet sherry and mayonnaise and rolled into a puff-pastry pocket. The puff pastry was golden and flaky and worked well with the rich crab filling. Mustard aioli had a nice flavor but seemed out of place with the crab.

For the vegetarian, there are roasted red and golden beets shaved thin and layered with mixed greens tossed in barrel-aged balsamic vinegar. They are garnished with roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, shaved Pecorino Romano, crisp fried sweet onions and imported Tuscan olive oil.

Desserts change more frequently than the small plates. We opted for a brown sugar cake with grilled fruit ($8). Though the individual cake made for a lovely presentation, it was dry. The flavor was excellent, though, and the grilled pineapple topping provided some sweet juice to moisten things a bit. Other offerings included vanilla creme brulee and mocha crunch cake.

An extensive wine list covers several hundred labels from around the world.

There is live music Friday and Saturday nights, and the bar area has a pool table with no charge to play.

Lisa’s is located just off Route 50 in a strip mall a few miles from the Bay Bridge.

RESTAURANT: Lisa’s Small Plates and Wine Bar, 1235 Shopping Center Drive, Stevensville, Md.; 410/604-2550

HOURS: Full menu available Monday and Tuesday 5 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday through Sunday noon to midnight

PRICES: Small plates $9 to $22; desserts $8

RESERVATIONS: Not accepted

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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