by Lynn Williams
The first thing you really need to know about Fins is that it’s not a seafood restaurant. Oh sure, you’ll find a catch of the day and a crab cake on the menu, but the name isn’t really referencing the menu.
It’s setting a mood: Caribbean breezes, palm trees, drinks on the deck. And if the name sounds familiar, this new Cantonite – located where Granite Bar & Grille used to be – is an offshoot of the Fleet Street restaurant of a decade or so ago. Like that Fins, the new Fins caters to anyone who’d rather be in Margaritaville than in Baltimore.
The décor is pretty good at setting a mood, too. The lofty-ceilinged bar area and dining room are covered with tropical murals; the results are very pretty, and stay this side of tiki-hut tacky. There are also large windows on the Square’s passing scene. It was odd, then, that on an evening when the dining room was not at all crowded we were seated at a table with a splendid view of…the kitchen.
The fare is good-timey, sports-bar stuff, with a twist of creativity. The usual suspects, such as pizza, burgers, wraps, pasta, fish and chips, a New York strip, and so on pretty much replicate the items on every restaurant in town with plasma TVs. Here, though, it’s the appetizers that dominate the menu, with such dishes as Buffalo-style calamari and seared tuna bites with homemade horseradish sauce tucked in among the quesadillas, onion rings, and other standards of the genre.
We started with the crab dip ($9.99), on the assumption that anything involving both crabmeat and cheese is a Good Thing. (Even the lesser versions of this dish, which are basically bowls of cheesy goo, taste pretty terrific.) This was a stellar version, with big lumps of crab in a spice-laced combination of cheeses that had a definite bite. It came with both French bread and carrots for dipping.
The rare, sushi-grade tuna ($9.99), seared, sliced and sprinkled with sesame seeds, was also a treat, whether dipped in wasabi-laced tamari sauce and eaten with chopsticks or consumed canapé-style on toasted pita chips.
Dipping into the specials menu, I ordered the flatiron steak ($13.99), which, unfortunately, lacked the pizzazz of our appetizers. There was nothing really wrong with the steak, which was served rare as requested and topped with a somewhat salty brown gravy, but there was nothing to distinguish it, either. The vegetable medley was both overcooked and underseasoned, and the whipped potatoes tasted as if they had begun the day in an envelope. Why do restaurants find it so hard to make decent, homemade-tasting potatoes?
The kitchen was on a more solid footing with the roasted vegetable platter ($11.99), to which chicken or shrimp can also be added for a few bucks extra. The shrimp actually took second place to the veggies here; marinated in olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs and slow roasted, the red peppers, zucchini, and especially carrots were sweet, tender and delicious.
To get the most out of Fins, the best bet is to settle in at the bar with drinks and a few appetizers. If you’re a sports fan, so much the better, but if not, no worries – most of the people at the bar seemed more intent on conversation and flirtation than on the O’s.
Fins Bar & Grill
2903 O’Donnell St.
Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. daily (kitchen closes 10 p.m.)
Our dinner for two: $62.24
The Latest Dish…
Dizzy Issie’s confounded its fans, which are legion, by closing its doors last spring. It’s been a long wait for the regulars, who have had to go elsewhere for their cheap beer and good burgers, but the popular Remington bar/restaurant has at last returned, newly renovated. Now called The Dizz, it has been spiffed up a bit, but the front bar has retained its retro, antique-shop vibe, the prices are still eminently reasonable, and manager Elaine is once again welcoming all comers. Look for The Dizz on the corner of Remington and 30th streets.