Rough Seas at Steamboat Landing
by Chris Kulczycki
I really want to like Steamboat Landing. After all, its a five-minute boat ride from our house and a great place to watch the Wednesday night sailboat races or the cruisers anchoring for a weekend in Galesville.
The restaurant sits on a dock jutting into the West River. The dining room is elegant with dark wood paneling, polished brass and an imposing bar, though the deck, with its sweeping view of the river and Galesvilles waterfront, is the best place to dine. So several times each year we putter over in the skiff, tie up in one of the guest slips and are mildly disappointed by the overpriced food and amateurish service. Having heard reports of yet another change in management and read of much improved food, we gave it another go.
The crab cakes were superb, perfectly broiled, firm, flavored with spring herbs, not a hint of shell in the pair. The pan-seared salmon was fresh and cooked to perfection. Nicely prepared vegetables were artfully arranged on the plate. And I discovered hopn John, a moist and delicious mixture of black-eyed peas and crabmeat. The tomato and tarragon soup with chorizo might have been spicier, a minor complaint. But the cornmeal-battered oysters were crisp, juicy and rich. Our server was personable and willing to advise us on what was best.
Hooray, I thought, Steamboat Landing is finally a great restaurant. We invited friends for dinner there the following week.
The crab cakes were mushy, crunchy with shell fragments and devoid of taste. The hopn John Id so looked forward to was dry unseasoned mortar. And my plate might have been arranged with a backhoe. A bucket of steamed clams was generous and perfectly cooked, though excessively sandy. The jumbo shrimp were okay, but the oysters were cold. Service was indifferent and slow. Was this the same restaurant?
We decided to try one last time. The calamari was lovely, crispy and tender with a sweet Asian sauce. But I didnt finish my bland special of haddock with pineapple cucumber relish. The rockfish fillet was properly cooked, but small, gray and a bit too fishy. A side of garlic mashed potatoes was cold and under-seasoned. Even my hopn John didnt equal that of our first visit. Our server was very pleasant and no doubt well intentioned. But we were served no bread plates, nor appetizer plates, just a sticky table. When we asked for extra napkins we were handed a roll of paper towels. As before, drinks were served in plastic cups in a place where entrees range to $26.
The wine list displays a pedestrian, though dependable, selection. A few microbrewery beers and frozen concoctions are also on offer. Minute Maid lemonade was among the non-alcoholic beverages; talk about branding.
If there can be a moral to a restaurant review, it is that you cant judge an eatery in a single visit. As for Steamboat Landing, it has the potential to be a wonderful high-end restaurant. If only the kitchen were more consistent and the staff received a bit of training.
But for now, I wont gamble the $100 or so for a full meal for two, in hopes of hitting a good night. Instead well simply order sandwiches or a bucket of steamers and beer and enjoy the view from the deck.
Steamboat Landing 410/867-7200
4851 Riverside Drive Galesville
Proprietor: Nick Basford
Reason to go: Wonderful view of the West River and a stroll through Galesville after dinner.
Something to think about: Galesville has a choice of three restaurants, and all of them offer a wonderful view.