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O'Leary's Seafood Restaurant

Feb 15, 2013 08:43PM ● By Anonymous

With a picturesque waterfront view and the incredible original artwork, a warm and comfortable dining room became my home for what was to be a memorable evening. A pleasant and smiling staff greeted me and my guest, and we were seated in a cozy corner booth. Throughout the evening the professional staff was on point and very helpful with all my questions—kudos to Dana.

Choosing a wine from the world-class selection can take some time, it is well planned with a price and taste for anyone. We were quick to select a glass of Annabella Pinot Noir Carneros ($12), a young dry and pleasant vintage that fi t my taste for the meal ahead.

Our appetizers were from both the menu and a nightly specials. The Salad Equinox ($12) was presented with a fan of fresh d’Anjou pear, Gorgonzola cheese, candied walnuts, and grape tomatoes, on a bed of salad greens and dressed with a delicate champagne vinaigrette. All the ingredients could be tasted on their own as the dressing was oh-so-subtle—so many dressings overpower natural flavor. Our other starter, the Moroccan carrot soup with lump crabmeat ($9) was a great combination. Cream of carrot soup is one of my favorites, so I was happy to try a new version; a nice texture of pureed carrot with hints of cumin and a plain yogurt swirl on top, complemented the jumbo-lump crab just peaking out of the surface.

Fresh seafood is the driving force on the entire menu, though a New York Strip ($34) or Pork Tenderloin Gorgonzola ($29) is also available as an entrée. Purchasing quality ingredients is obviously the normal practice in O’Leary’s kitchen. I noticed several dinner plates being served near me as we were seated, and all looked fresh and creatively plated.

Our entrée choices for dinner were the Crispy Florida Grouper with Gulf Shrimp ($29) and the classic seafood combination, Zarzuela ($35).The Crispy Grouper was arranged over perfectly cooked black beans and fresh tomato-cilantro salsa. Lightly coated fi lets of grouper were moist and expertly cooked. The giant gulf shrimp that were artfully placed on the plate had a full-flavored chipotle aioli on the top and a thin strip of barbecue sauce. A great combination of textures and flavors make this choice one of their signature dishes for me.

Ah, yes, the Zarzuela—as a younger man I was very lucky to have been a commercial fisherman and frequently jumped ship from one type of fishing to another. Daily there would be scallops, lobster, clams, mussels, and fish, all ready to cook within hours of being brought on board. My profession took a change, of course, and I have been a chef for more than two decades now; however, I can never forget the good fortune of eating the fresh seafood that we caught. I have had this amazing recipe before and was drawn to it immediately.

Catalonian-style cooking has it all as far as freshness of ingredients, sustainability, spices, cooking technique, and unique presentation. O’Leary’s did not miss a beat on all counts. The calamari was as tender as I have ever had, and matched the texture of the sea scallops. A generous portion of littleneck clams and mussels, along with half a lobster tail and shrimp, came together in a full-bodied stock, with a baguette for cleaning up all the great flavors of this dish. I could have easily been in Spain while I was eating this version.

My guest and I decided to split a dessert to finish the meal. The Crème Brulee ($9) came out with a very nice cup of freshly brewed coffee. Caramelized sugar on the surface of the velvety smooth custard beneath was done in true French style with smiles all around the table.

A great evening of fine food and fine art, making O’Leary’s a must-see destination for anyone who loves both.

310 Third Street, Annapolis
5–10 p.m. Monday to Saturday;
5–9 p.m. Sunday

$29–35 ENTREES

John Hetmanski is a certified executive chef with the American Culinary Federation and has more than 20 years of restaurant experience. He is a former teacher at Baltimore International Culinary College, and currently runs the Steward Department at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training in Piney Point, Maryland.