Cafe Normandie in Annapolis
We are going to Cafe Normandie tomorrow night. Any recommendations? We were racking our brains, and it looks like the last time we were there was 1998 or 1999!
There are a few posts saying that it's a still a good place to eat, but I'm hoping for recs about what not to miss, what to avoid, etc.
We've been going there occasionally for over 20 years, the last time about two weeks ago, before a show at Ram's Head. The place has definitely gone downhill. The atmosphere and smells are fine, but the food is a solid notch below, say, Le Refuge in Old Town Alexandria. It's going to be very difficult for us to go back, given other options in Annapolis. Les Folies Brasserie is a far superior choice.
Here's our report.
The setting was cozy and intimate, with smooth, excellent service. The tables are close together, however, and when it's packed, it's loud. There was a sea change in the decibel level/intimacy level from when we arrived at 7:45 to when we left 9:30. It started clearing out around 8 PM, and was much more intimate about 9 when all of the tables around us had vacated.
We ordered their charcuterie platter to start: two types of dry salami, two types of pate, mixed greens, a few cornichon, a few olives. The dry salamis were not home made and were like any other dry salami I've eaten. The two pates were very good. One was a bit spicier, with peppercorns studding it throughout. The other was your traditional pate, with bits of herb throughout and a thin layer of the fat at the top.
I had the rockfish with fennel. Two pieces of rockfish with virtually no spicing. The fennel was chopped and sauteed. It was plated with a white wine/cream sauce. The food was piping hot, you can tell the fennel was sauteed, plated, then immediately brought to the table. The problem was with the execution: the fennel released its juices and watered down the sauce, which was a bit on the bland side. Furthermore, the colors of the dish were bland bland bland: white plate, whitish-greenish fennel, white fish. It needed some oomph---both in look as well as taste.
My dining companion got the steak au poivre. The meat was amazingly tender and cooked to order----he didn't even need the steak knife to cut through it. The peppercorn-meat ratio/balance was perfect. The au poivre sauce could use a little work: a little too thin and undersalted for my taste. Came with a double-baked potato and veg of the day (pea pods and carrots).
For dessert we split a vanilla ice cream with cherries that had been steeped in brandy. There were about 8 cherries, and a scant two tablespoons of the cherry-brandy sauce. The sauce was delicious, but far too scant.
This plus a $50 bottle of Medoc came to $150 before tip. We enjoyed our evening, but we pegged the quality of the meal at $100, $125 tops. I'd go back for an easy, relaxed evening, but if I want top-notch fare, I'd go elsewhere.