- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The opening of a new restaurant always creates a buzz, but the buzz only lasts as long as the menu can sustain it.

Be assured, the sophisticated New American cuisine at Allison’s Restaurant in Crofton, near the Prince George’s and Anne Arundel county line, will keep this place hopping for a long time.

In a few short months, Allison’s has become a meeting place for the area’s food enthusiasts. The small contemporary dining room seats about 50 and was already packed when my party arrived for a 6:30 p.m. reservation.

Wooden walls and tables are accented by mirrors; brightly colored pendant lamps hang from metal tracks and focus light on each table.

The waiters are enthusiastic, prepared to answer questions about every plate that comes from the kitchen.

The menu is small but packed with variety.

For starters, prep your palate with lobster bisque or roasted vegetable and red lentil soup. Or try one of the six salads, including an unusual chicken grill and fried brie salad which features a mango buttermilk dressing along with the chicken breast, fried brie and mixed greens.

Cornmeal-crusted oysters are served over cole slaw with red pepper cream sauce and poblano puree. Wild mushroom ravioli is made with shiitake and portobellos and served with a lobster ginger sauce.

There are usually about a dozen main courses to choose from, including a special each day. Friday’s special was a five-ounce beef tenderloin and a crab cake ($20).

One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is a veal T-bone ($20.95). The veal is lightly seared, then roasted and plated with mustard cream sauce and cheddar-whipped potatoes, creamed spinach and roasted zucchini.

The veal was perfectly prepared and was tender and very flavorful. The sauce had just the right richness and was a perfect accompaniment to the meat. The spinach, although creamed, was still crisp and bursting with flavor. Only the potatoes did not deliver what was promised: there was not a hint of cheddar. My guess is the kitchen substituted (or mistakenly plated) plain instead. Whatever, they were still a fine accompaniment to the sauce.

Citrus-marinated salmon fillet ($16.50) comes with basmati rice, mango salsa, grilled asparagus and pomegranate molasses. This is a dish that will wake up your tastebuds. The perfectly cooked salmon was accented with a bright citrus flavor. The mango salsa provided a sweet, cool contrast, with just the right hit of cilantro. The pomegranate molasses really brought things together with its hint of tartness.

The fish of the day was a Parmesan-crusted cod fillet ($17) served with a potato pancake, grilled asparagus, and a mango salsa. The fresh fish was expertly prepared and arrived piping hot. Again, the chef’s sauces get really high marks. The pepper puree that the cod rested on had just the right bite and combined well with the mild fish and the sweetness of the mango and the crusty potato pancake.

Other main dish options include a hickory-grilled pork chop served with jalapeno cranberry sauce, cheddar-whipped potatoes, okra and black beans and pan-seared sea scallops — and red pepper sauce and crispy polenta, calamata olives and grilled corn salsa.

Desserts are made in-house and range in price from $3.95 to $6.75. On the menu are vanilla bean creme brulee, tiramisu, chocolate sundae, a “Death by Chocolate,” strawberry and berry shortcake, sorbet and ice cream.

The tiramisu was wonderfully creamy but not overly rich; the sundae was made special by pieces of candied vanilla wafer and walnuts.

A wine list includes around a dozen selections available by the glass or bottle.

RESTAURANT: Allison’s, 2207 Defense Highway (Priest Bridge Centre), Crofton, Md.; 410/721-0331

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday; noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday

PRICES: Soups and salads $3.75 to $5.75; appetizers $6.75 to $8.95; sandwiches $7.50 to $11.95; dinner entrees $12.95 to $22; desserts $3.95 to $6.75


CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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