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Power Lunch: Lemongrass

May 19, 2010 06:08PM ● By Anonymous

How we got here: Our first foray with Power Lunch wasn’t without drama. At 1:20 p.m., we headed to Annapolis’ relatively new upscale Mexican joint Latin Quarter, set to be our first Power Lunch review. After 10 minutes waiting in front of the hostess stand—once being told they’d set a table for us—we were eventually let in on the secret that the staff was too busy to buss tables or seat, and we’d really be better off finding a table for ourselves. Odd, but hey, we’ve been busy from time to time. We can relate. We sat ourselves at the bar only to be ignored for another 10 minutes. In this case, two waitresses were using the computer right in front of us to enter orders and ring out someone with carryout food, but couldn’t take a moment to hand us a menu. When it became clear that we were in everyone’s way, we decided to head next door to Lemongrass.

We really showed them: Lemongrass and Latin Quarter are owned by the same restaurant group. Oh well.

What we got: We split an order of veggie garden rolls as an appetizer. Sure, it’s basic and hard to mess up, but it also fit our needs: quick to prepare, light on the wallet, and not the sort of thing to put you into a post-lunch food coma once you return to cubicle land. The hoisin sauce was sweet, and the garden rolls refreshing and not too filling, if a little heavy on cilantro.
Andy ordered panang tofu, fried tofu in homemade creamy red sauce with kaffir lime leaves. This was a winning dish, something Andy can see himself ordering from carryout many lunches into the future. Tofu often suffers from being cooked improperly and having a too tough or too spongy texture. This wasn’t the case here, and the sauce was both creamy and spicy, with peanut sweetness countered by subtle ginger and garlic.

James ordered red curry with duck, served with a side bowl of sticky white rice; not too [spicy] hot, not mild, it had just enough heat to wake up the palate for the amazing flavors within. The aromas alone—a mix of kaffir lime, cilantro, basil, and coconut—were heavenly. The first spoonful carefully included a bit of curry sauce and a chunk of piping hot pineapple, which exploded with rich flavor. James was sold. Subsequent bites of tender duck—its dark flesh absorbing all flavor notes—and green bell pepper, enveloped in the curry with a bit of rice for texture made this dish one of the most satisfying and well rounded James has eaten in quite some time.

What we paid: Our appetizer ran $6 bucks and both entrees came in at $8. We drank water, so for $11 each (plus a few duckets tip) we came out with a great meal at not much more than you pay for a “value” meal at a fast food restaurant, sans trans fat and guilt.

How long it took: We were seated right away, waited on patiently and diligently, served food quicker than one expects, and walked out in under 30 minutes. Great job by the Lemongrass staff.

The verdict: Powerful. If management can get Latin Quarter running as efficiently as Lemongrass, we’ll forgive the bad experience and give them another try. Everyone has trouble starting out; not many restaurants are as satisfying as a Lemongrass lunch on the fly.