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Restaurant Review: Rich in Flavor

Apr 18, 2014 09:53AM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Diana Jeffra // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

Rod ‘N’ Reel Restaurant
at Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa
4165 Mears Avenue Chesapeake Beach

Chesapeake Beach is a place that I have yet to explore and on the day we picked to visit, the weather offered a high of about 20 degrees. Nevertheless, we embraced the cold and the adventure. As inscribed on the sign in the parking lot, Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa is the fishing charter capital of the state and, clearly, a major destination for waterfront dining and events.

Located within the resort, we found the entrance to Rod ‘N’ Reel and were welcomed through the front doors, which happened to have two fishing rods for door handles. The restaurant is rather large and has a nice circular layout with booths that line the sizable windows for a beautiful waterfront view. The décor is reminiscent of my grandfather’s boat with polished wood and accents of nautical blue.

We were immediately seated and welcomed by our server Stephen. After diligently thumbing through the expansive menu, we dove right in. We started with a fresh, medium-bodied Edna Valley Chardonnay from Paso Robles. Because of the cold we wanted to begin our meal with some warming soups: the Maryland crab and the cream of crab. The Maryland crab was timeless; it had the classic small-diced potatoes, mixed vegetables, and was topped with an enjoyable portion of crabmeat. I personally feel it could have used a touch more crab spice (J.O. or Old Bay seasoning). The cream of crab was delicious. In my opinion, cream of crab should be a soup and not chowder-style, meaning, it shouldn’t make your spoon stand up on its own in the bowl. For me, the consistency was perfect. It was beautifully silky, rich, not too thick, and had a pleasant subtle finish of sherry. This too was topped with a generous helping of crab and dusted with crab spice. Visually, it excited my taste buds as soon as it was placed on the table.

Image titleAfter the soup we shared an amazing arugula and pear salad. The helping was rather sizable; it was definitely enough to share with others. The smooth, delicate, Moscato poached pear was fanned out next to crisp peppery arugula that was tossed with pine nuts and cranberry vinaigrette. Tucked next to the arugula was a large wedge of pungent bleu cheese. The flavors and textures complemented each other beautifully. Progressing through our meal we moved on to appetizers. We knew we wanted to try the crab cakes in some form or another, so settling on the crab balls was a good decision. The rectangular plate came with three fairly large fried crab balls alongside a small mound of lightly dressed mixed greens. The crab balls were fried to perfection, very light, crispy, and an excellent golden color. The presentation was vibrant with the mixed greens and made for an attractive dish. Next came the Oysters Rockefeller. The plate arrived with four large oysters atop a bed of chopped greens. The oysters were of great quality, not too salty, and very plump. They were topped with spinach and an ample amount of parmesan cheese. Overall, I thought they were rather tasty and the portion size appropriate.

Onward to the entrees, I ordered the Stuffed Shrimp, which is listed as the same recipe since 1947. I thought the presentation was lovely; the three butterflied shrimp were arranged tail up with a nice hearty scoop of crab imperial nestled in the arch of each. The filling was light in texture and rich in flavor. It was served with saffron orzo and gently cooked broccoli, cauliflower, and strands of carrot, all bright and crisp. I can see why this dish has been around for so long.

My friends ordered the Norfolk Sampler and the Bistro Steak Béarnaise. The Norfolk Sampler was very rich. Gently cooked scallops, shrimp, and crab all served in Norfolk butter (clarified herb butter). This decadent, buttery dish was great way to get a little taste of everything seafood. The Bistro Steak Béarnaise was a huge surprise of the night, perfectly cooked to medium rare…textbook medium rare. The steak had a fantastic sear and was well rested. It was served with garlic fries and sautéed spinach with red peppers that were nice additions of color and texture to the plate.

Dessert, as it tends to be, was quite the struggle because everything sounds so good. We decided to share the Crème Brulee and the Hazelnut Pate. The Crème Brulee was the traditional smooth custard filling topped with a crunch of torched sugar. It was delicious. The Hazelnut Pate was incredible. It had a hard chocolate exterior and a smooth velvety interior. Served with whipped cream and raspberries, it was a perfect end to our evening.

On our walk back to our car we took another look around. Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa is certainly a destination for the seafood lover, whether you catch it yourself on a charter boat or eat it fresh in any of the three restaurants. From casual dining at Smokey Joe’s and Boardwalk Café to a more upscale dinner at the Rod ‘N’ Reel, the resort seems to have something for every style of diner. After a great experience this past winter, I am very much looking forward to revisiting during the warmer months.

Eastern Shore native, Diana Jeffra is a professional chef and aspiring food stylist. Her background in graphic design and her culinary degree from the Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute have led her to begin work on her first cookbook. Past adventures have led her to culinary competitions and a summer cooking in Italy.

The Check
Enda Valley Chardonnay 29.00 (bottle)
Cup Cream of Crab Soup 5.59
Cup Maryland Crab 5.29
Arugula & Pear Salad 7.99
Crab Balls 12.99
Oysters Rockefeller 10.99
Norfolk Sampler 26.99
Baked Stuffed Shrimp 24.99
Bistro Steak 18.99
Hazelnut Pate 6.99
Crème Brulee 5.99