Restaurant Review: Chart House
Sep 26, 2016 03:22PM ● Published by Arden Haley
300 2nd Street, Annapolis // 410-268-7166 // chart-house.com
By Rita Calvert | Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
Friendly greetings from the young host and staff welcomed us in a busy, yet cool atmosphere on a steamy July evening, perfect for enjoying the harbor beyond from the soaring windows in front of us. Chart House seafood restaurant provides stunning views of Spa Creek, the Naval Academy, and the charming bridges, towers, and spires of historic Annapolis. Plus, a million dollar remodel sets an entirely new pace for this historic gem and its role in Eastport’s nautical history.
Chart House Annapolis opened in 1978, retaining the appeal of a premier Annapolis/Eastport boatyard that played a part in both World Wars, as well as an era of luxury yachts. This structure was the primary shipyard for John Trumpy & Sons. In February 2015, Chart House completed an exceptional refurbishment that earned it a coveted LEED certification for its commitment to strict environmentally friendly requirements. The outside of the building remained untouched to preserve much of the yard’s historic layout. The exterior looks largely as it did during its shipbuilding heyday.
But prepare yourself for a very different interior! The bar was cleverly relocated to the center of the restaurant and now offers 14 seats and four booths on an elevated level to allow a magnificent view of the scenic Spa Creek above its vast dining room seating. Open views on all three sides means there is not a bad seat in the house. Even the new special events facility, The Trumpy Room, which seats 75, has a water vista.
With the renovation came an entirely new interior look although original photos of the boatyard and recreations of half hulls have remained. Now, surrounding the memorabilia is a sleek new color scheme of grays and browns in clean lines. Our waiter, Brandon, explained this monochromatic palette was designed to frame the gorgeous view, rather than compete with it.
All of the open spaces remain bright in daylight hours...even the bar. During the waning of the sun, buff colored shades are lowered just enough to prevent blinding from shards of slanted sun. As the light dims, four huge silver deco-style globes light the cavernous ceiling as if for sailors’ celestial navigation. The muted-colored carpet with its geometric designs acts as an acoustic aid to help buffer any loud conversation in the vast space.
Our engaging server, most willing to please and recommend, appeared with a basket of crackers and two warm fresh breads, one dark and slightly sweet; the other a crunchy diamond shaped roll. Accompanied by soft butter, it was a welcome bite while we read over the just-right-sized menu with a glass of Chilean Lapostolle Chardonnay, and its satisfying oakiness. New drinks have been added to the craft beverage menu including the Violet Touch, Mango Mojito, Pear Rita, and The Fiery Cucumber to name just a few of the creative offerings.
The culinary offerings are on par with the decor and contemporary times with items like Grilled Watermelon & Feta Salad with Baby Spinach, Field Greens, Saffron Cornbread Croutons in a Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette or a Mediterranean Tapas plate as a starter. Ssamjang Shrimp is another trendy offering and more about that later. The salad bar is still offered as an entree, priced at $17.50, or as a side to an entree for $9. The bar space offers an extensive list of small plates and drinks nicely priced for the contemporary American eatery. Still, there are the standard favorites with a new twist: Coconut Crunchy Shrimp which definitely turned our heads as it sailed by; five jumbo crackly-looking shrimp propped up in a tilted huge puffy poppadam was most impressive.
Seafood reigns here with a very small selection from the land. A section of the seafood menu is straightforward with six simple fin fish offerings: grilled with olive oil, pan-seared, baked, or blackened with lemon shallot butter. Snazzy toppings are offered for an extra charge. Although it wasn’t stated on the menu, these fish entrees included rice and their vegetable of the day. Additional seafood entrees stand on their own such as King Salmon & Heirloom Tomatoes—grilled and served with summer succotash and a corn cream sauce.
We chose two summery starters to celebrate the sultry weather: The Ssamjang Shrimp was marked with a “CH” notation that Brandon told us was a seasonal special offering. A borderless wooden board sported five golden grilled large shrimp with pools of Asian and Indian dipping sauces, one a definite peanut sauce. Herb-marinated cucumber, red onion, and heirloom tomato salad added the perfect crunch for the rich shellfish. The Shrimp, Crab, Avocado & Mango Stack was loaded with bright summery colors—a very generous portion of perfectly ripe avocado topped with a thick and fresh mango red pepper coulis, then a top layer of crab and chunky shrimp. A very refreshing start, although it cried out for some stronger spice or citrus notes—but it was pleasing enough to clean the plate.
We were both in the mood for fish. I chose rockfish, grilled, with Cabell topping—soft bits of lobster and crab within a lemon beurre blanc sauce. The lemon butter so perfectly highlighted the dish, I requested a bit more.
My companion ordered ahi tuna, grilled, with the avocado Pico sauce. The tuna was skillfully grilled, to maintain the rare center essential to this dish. As with the starter stack, the avocado was very fresh, but the sauce overall seemed to need a kick, perhaps with a shake of heat, lemon, or seasonal, fresh tomatoes. A sweet pyramid of rice accompanied the dish, with a subtle hint of coconut. Our fish was plated with a large side medley of steamed broccoli, carrots, and red pepper.
Not ones to skip a sweet finish, our server helped us choose the intriguing S’mores Creme Brûlée to share. He noted it was such a hit when introduced for the spring menu it made it onto the summer menu, too. He did explain to us that it was masquerading as Crème Brûlée only in name and did not contain the famous custard. Presented in a pretty white bowl with a large rim and domed lid, smoke puffed out as Brandon lifted the lid to present! The dish has a light base of graham cracker crust layered in a tasty, thick, dark chocolate layer. The toasted marshmallow cream had the expected crunchy brittle and browned crust, dotted with mini chocolate chips. We were too full to finish the large serving even though we were doing our best to linger while paddle boarders gathered in the water outside our window to enjoy the evening’s beautiful sunset.
As we exited and strolled waterside, purple streaks of sunset colored the sky while masthead flags fluttered in a gentle breeze...the quintessential Annapolis experience.