Restaurant Review: Newly opened Ruth’s Chris in Odenton
Jan 25, 2017 04:34PM ● Published by Arden Haley
Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. ’til 11 p.m., and Sun. 4–9 p.m.; Happy Hour weekdays 2:30–6:30 p.m. and Sun. 4–6:30 p.m. Reservations recommended. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Valet parking.
Steve de Castro has a sixth sense for success. As a young man, he was granted franchise rights for a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in the Eastport section of Annapolis, then another in Baltimore. Both establishments employed the magic formula of Ruth Ferkel, the feisty New Orleans-born founder of the original Ruth’s Chris—a simple 60-seat eatery that built its reputation on serving the finest steaks with a side of southern hospitality.
Fast forward to the recent opening of de Castro’s 10th Ruth’s Chris—this one in the fast-growing Odenton area of west Anne Arundel County. We visited not long after it made its debut on the ground floor of an apartment complex in the Village of Odenton, across from the Odenton MARC Station. The exact location can be hard to find: we passed the turn-off from Route 175 three times before we called the restaurant and were patiently guided to our destination by a cheerful young woman named Tiffany. Her courtesy was typical of the staffers we encountered during our visit—from the valet who welcomed us at the curb to the hostess who gave us a quick tour of the handsome establishment and the rest of the crew we encountered.
The design of de Castro’s newest restaurant reflects his talent for combining several elements into a pleasing whole. I learned in a post-visit interview that he and general manager R. Linger had spent hours erecting the glass wine racks that do double duty as room dividers between the bar and the three dining rooms. Lighting is flattering, music (was that Pink Martini?) is low, and well-trained servers perform their respective roles like a well-rehearsed orchestra. “America in Miniature” is the theme of framed photographs by Marylanders Randy Santos and Matt Donnelly that enliven the walls of the dining rooms here. Personally chosen by de Castro, they capture the diversity of our state—from the Chesapeake Bay to the mountains of Western Maryland and the historic towns and big cities that have earned it the reputation as “the land of pleasant living.”
Maryland is also the home of five of de Castro’s Ruth’s Chris establishments—scenes for the celebration of good food orchestrated by Executive Chef Jason Johnson and special occasions. On our visit, we were seated at a table splashed with rose petals (because someone thought it was my birthday) in the main room and within minutes were approached by a black-clad server in a red bow who asked us for our “water preferences.” Go for the Voss—the signature non-alcoholic beverage that arrives in a handsome carafe and is yours to take home. Next up was a bread basket delivered by another staffer and filled with warm raisin-studded dark, as well as sour dough and some delicious honey butter.
Having a cocktail? The bartenders know their classics—and know how to make a modern gin and tonic by adding rosemary and ginger liqueur to the mix or a New Age martini featuring pink peppercorns instead of olives. If it’s wine you favor, choose from more than 200 carefully-curated bottles or a high-end selection of wines by the glass—$14 and up. Better to buy by the bottle, if your party shares similar tastes. Wine glasses are elegant and add to the pleasure of sipping while you decide on what’s to come from the kitchen.
Perusing the menu at any Ruth’s Chris is a trip along temptation lane. Think 26 choices of prime steaks of various cuts and weights, thick-cut lamb chops, scallops, shrimp, lobster tail, Chilean sea bass, a double chicken breast, a superb lobster bisque; and à la carte sides (big enough to share) that include Brussel sprouts, fire-roasted corn (in season), broccoli, and the ubiquitous creamed spinach. If this is your first Ruth’s Chris voyage, be aware that your bill is apt to be in the ballpark of $100 per person. Everything is à la carte and wines by the glass run $13–18. An exception is a separate menu called Chef’s Features that offer an appetizer, entrée, side, and dessert for $39.95 or $59.95—good only at the Odenton location for a limited time.
With that caveat, let me recommend the lobster bisque and the chopped salad as starters. Ruth’s Chris restaurants assures customers of consistency by following the same recipes at all their locations, and the velvety sherry-tinged bisque is lovely. We asked to share the salad—a colorful mélange of lettuces, red onion, olives, bacon, and hearts of palm in a delicate lemon basil dressing, topped with morsels of blue cheese. It was divided in the kitchen, arriving at the table shaped like a miniature tower in the center of individual plates. As an appetizer, we had a trio of seared scallops—sweet and sushi-like in their simplicity.
My partner was in awe at the sight and sound of his 16-ounce New York strip steak, served sizzling at 500 degrees. “Best steak ever,” he chanted, pausing once in a while to dip a bite into the trio of tasting sauces (black truffle butter, shitake mushroom demi-glace, honey soy glaze) he ordered as a side ($6). As a lamb lover, I was very happy with my trio of thick and juicy chops, still pink from the broiler and flavored by a garlic/soy marinade. Not so happy that the kitchen had overloaded the plate by including my side of asparagus and crab lumps alongside the meat. When I pointed out this unhappy marriage of lamb juice spilling over everything, our server apologized and returned with the edited version.
The restaurant’s desserts are house made and include cheesecake with seasonal berries, a molten chocolate lava cake sided with chocolate mousse, and a unique banana cream pie white chocolate and banana liqueur. One of each? Yes, please. But we went with a scratch-made bread pudding frosted with white chocolate and served with a choice of spirited (Chambord, Tia Maria, Grand Marnier, Frangelico) crème anglicize. Divine.
Ruth’s Chris has earned its brand-recognition as the go-to destination for prime beef, good wine, and thoughtful service by a well-trained staff. Our experience at the new Odenton location reinforces this reputation. It is more laid back than its Annapolis sister, with employees at all levels on high alert to make sure each diner was well-served.