- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2008

Aqua Terra has been delivering the best of land and sea in a contemporary setting in downtown Annapolis for eight years.

The two storefront tables allow guests to watch locals and visitors strolling up and down the capital’s historic Main Street. It was warm enough for the restaurant to prop open the front doors, so we had the added pleasure of a light breeze.

The kitchen’s plates, small and large, emphasize creativity.

Duck tacos ($9.50) are duck confit in a hoisin barbecue sauce, served in crispy won-ton “taco shells” and topped with Asian slaw. The hoisin sauce provides a nice balance to the rich, tender duck meat, and the crunch of the won ton provides the fun.

The lobster roll ($10.50) is lobster meat and an Asian slaw wrapped in lettuce leaves, served with a creamy dipping sauce. Generous chunks of lobster graced this dish, so it’s hard to say anything negative about it, except that the loose filling fell apart at first bite, so it was more like lobster salad than lobster roll.

Other small plates worth attention are the asparagus tempura with creamy, sweet soy dipping sauce, and the shrimp and pork dumplings, steamed and served with tangy yuzu ponzu dipping sauce.

The house salad is made of mixed greens, shredded carrots, red currants, cashews, duck confit, a warm curried vinaigrette and crispy shoestring beets.

Sesame-seared tuna ($28) arrives atop lemon-grass risotto, finished with a red onion marmalade and caramel soy glaze. The tuna was cooked to order and was fresh and flavorful. Black and white sesame seeds added not only a nice tickle of flavor, but plenty of eye appeal as well.

The risotto was cooked perfectly, and the lemon grass gave it a unique, bright flavor that was a perfect contrast for the tuna. The red onion marmalade was the real surprise; its cool sweet-sour flavor added a great contrast.

Asian shrimp scampi ($29) boasted large prawns and bold flavors. The prawns were very lightly seasoned and cooked just until done. A wrapping of seaweed continued the Asian theme and offered a bit of salty bitterness to contrast with the sweetness of the prawns. Udon noodles had the garlic that is traditional with scampi but gave a more rounded flavor.

Chilean sea bass ($29) was plated over stir-fried wild rice, wasabi and fish roe and finished with blood-orange soy pan sauce. The fish was nicely prepared — but a larger portion would have been even better.

Something more earthy would be the mixed grill: filet mignon medallions, pheasant and cognac sausage, grilled shrimp over roasted pecan-and-wild-mushroom risotto with snow peas — and finished with a pinot-noir reduction.

Desserts included an enticing creme brulee and bread pudding, but favorite flavors of chocolate and Key lime won out.

Chocolate lava cake ($10) was the perfect gooey treat, but decadently rich. Intense chocolate flavor was magnified in the creamy, warm center. The cake had just a bit of a crunch at its edges, providing a good contrast. Tart raspberry and subtle mango coulis offered balance.

Key lime calypso ($10) is a beautiful round of Key lime mousse, accented with chocolate sauce and a white chocolate diamond. Very light, the Key lime was subtle rather than overpowering, and the mousse had a very smooth, satisfying texture.

RESTAURANT: Aqua Terra, 164 Main St., Annapolis; www.aquaterraofannapolis.com, 410/263-1985

HOURS: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday

PRICES: Soups and salads $8.50 to $9.50; appetizers $8.50 to $12.50; dinner entrees $21 to $29; sides $7; desserts $10

CREDIT CARDS: American Express, Master Card, Visa

RESERVATIONS: Recommended on weekends

PARKING: Street or parking garage

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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