- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Remember the lyrics of the ‘80s song “Red Skies” by the Fixx? It went like this: “Red skies at night… Wo oh, wo oh oh oh oh oh oh oh….”

Laurel’s newest restaurant, Red Sky Steak and Fish House, is a fix for an area that has been hungry for a unique dining experience, and it’s not a stretch to say it’s earning a lot of “oh oh ohs.”

Located across from the Laurel Mall on Baltimore Boulevard, the former Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs is now an upscale lounge and restaurant.

Like many of today’s steakhouses, Red Sky is on the expensive side ? but there is more fun than pretension in the atmosphere.

Redskins fans will feel at home here, where vivid red and gold cover the walls. Hanging from tall ceilings are “sails” that serve as room dividers as well as decor. Mounted images of red skies grace the walls of this contemporary restaurant with a dining room that seats 130.

General manager Bruce Hicks has the servers trained well. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the kitchen and lounge offerings.

The lounge in this Prince George’s County eatery has its own menu and a dozen plasma TV sets for sports viewing. As expected, the lounge focuses more on appetizers and sandwiches.

Red Sky offers an extensive wine list, but we ordered from the lounge’s beverage menu instead. Martini offerings include the fun Maryland Monroe ($8), which is Freixenet champagne, apple brandy and grenadine. Tini Bubbles mixes the Freixenet with Stoli Razz and Chambord.

The dining room has many of the same appetizers on its menu but also steps things up a bit with choices including spicy tuna tartar, sushi-grade tuna mixed with sweet onions, sesame oil, lime and Sambal Oelek (a popular hot chili-pepper paste from Southeast Asia) over fried won tons. Or check out the drunken blue crab soup, which splashes a little whiskey in this otherwise traditional Maryland staple.

Spicy bacon-wrapped scallops ($10) came with a waitress’s warning: This dish is really hot. The chipotle barbecue sauce has a nice kick to it, and some could find it overpowering, especially as an entree.

For our taste, it had just the right level of heat to wake up our taste buds. The perfectly cooked scallops and mango salsa added a nice contrast of sweet and cool, and the crisp Applewood smoked bacon finished the plate with a nice crunch.

More than adequate for a steakhouse, Red Sky offers a choice of eight cuts: petit filet, filet, New York strip, bone-in strip, Red Sky sirloin, porterhouse, bone-in rib-eye and prime rib.

The kitchen is equipped with an 1,800-degree broiler, the hallmark of a serious steakhouse. Sides can be ordered a la carte, although some cuts come with more than straight beef. The bone-in rib-eye ($39) was cooked to order (medium) and was outstanding paired with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.

Because this is touted as a steak and fish house, there also is an impressive list of fish selections: grouper, snapper, salmon, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, rockfish and flounder.

The grouper ($28) is prepared with an herb crust and sun-dried tomato sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection and was flaky and flavorful.

The crust added a lot of flavor and a nice crunch without masking the fish; the sauce was a subtle complement.

Other seafood choices include crunchy coconut shrimp, shrimp remoulade, Maine lobster and a jumbo lump crab cake.

A plate listed as seafood Norfolk ($32) included jumbo lump crab, shrimp, scallops and lobster sauteed in garlic, butter and chives. Again, the seafood was cooked to perfection, with each shining through individually. The garlic butter sauce was wonderfully rich but not excessive.

If you’re not in the mood for surf or turf, Red Sky has a few other offerings.

A Mediterranean veal chop is smothered in sun-dried tomato, portobello demi-glaze with a touch of cream. The New Zealand rack of lamb is four double-cut chops with a mint demi-glaze.

Chicken scaloppini is made with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, lemon, cream and saffron.

For the vegetarian, there is the grilled portobello mushroom with red peppers, asparagus, broccolini and cheese over angel-hair pasta with small dices of tomato.

Desserts are not made in-house, but there is plenty of variety. While Chocolate Confusion ($6) might have you guessing exactly what makes up the different layers, there’s no question that this dessert offers a perfect chocolate fix that is not too sweet or rich. Bread pudding offers a twist with dried cherries rather than raisins. For something truly different, try the Peanut Butter Patty, smooth peanut butter gelato covered with chocolate.

Tiramisu, New York-style cheesecake, creme brulee and ice cream fill out the dessert offerings.

Red Sky is the newest Harvey Blonder creation. Mr. Blonder also owns Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs and Yellowfin Steak and Fish House in Annapolis and the Big Fish Grille in Crofton.

RESTAURANT: Red Sky Steak and Fish House, 14707 Baltimore Blvd., Laurel. 301/604-2144 or redskylaurel.com

HOURS: Monday through Thursday 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday 2 to 9 p.m.

PRICES: Soups, salads $6 to $24; appetizers $9 to $15; sides $5 to $6; entrees $23 to $45; desserts $6

RESERVATIONS: Not required

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site access; wheelchair accessible

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