Monday, December 05, 2016

Citron Opens on Quarry Lake

There's quite a bit of activity happening along Quarry Lake Road recently, This stretch of road off Greenspring Avenue has seen the opening of La Food Marketa just a couple months ago, and now a fine dining restaurant, Citron, has debuted in a newly completed building situated directly in front of Quarry Lake. The new facility, featuring one building for the restaurant and a second for private events, is the brain child of Charles Levine, president of Charles Levine Catering and Glorious Events. We were thrilled to be invited to dinner at his eagerly anticipated restaurant.

While showing the Minx and I around the restaurant, it's clear that Mr. Levine is quite proud of his baby and he has good reason to be. Every detail has been carefully thought out, from the acoustical fabric built into the ceiling to dampen noise to the combi oven in the kitchen, which allows for a variety of cooking techniques. The courtyard between the restaurant and the event building has wiring and plumbing in place for flat-screen televisions and a bar, offering a great space for warm weather dining. Clear plastic tents will soon enclose the outdoor seating areas along the lake side so that diners can enjoy the beautiful view while protected from the elements.

Of course, the heart of any restaurant is its cuisine, so we were eager to sample what Citron has to offer. We started with cocktails and were happy to see that they were using products from local distilleries. The Minx ordered the B'More Fizz which featured Shot Tower gin, Strega liqueur, lime, club soda, orange flower, and egg white for the frothy top. Although not normally a fan of gin, she enjoyed the drink's bright, refreshing flavor, which was redolent of orange flower. I chose the Tribute Manhattan which used Sagamore rye, sweet vermouth, and Abbott's Angostura bitters. The Sagamore rye has a warm, almost cinnamon quality that was perfect for the chilly, fall evening.

Citron describes its menu as contemporary American with a subtle French twist. A dish that fits the description is their lobster bisque. One of my pet peeves is when a restaurant cheats by putting an excess of cream in their bisque to cover up the fact that they did not make a proper stock. Basically calling a cream soup a bisque. At Citron, this is a true lobster bisque with the lobster stock clearly prominent. The technique is all French. The American part is seen in the generosity of the portion, which included the meat from both claws, butter-poached to sweet succulence.

Their potato gnocchi is another lovely starter. It has the proper texture (soft with a slight bite, neither mushy nor chewy) and the combination of mushrooms and garlic gives the dish a welcome umami quality that is emphasized by the truffle sage sauce and a grating of Grana Padano. The dish is topped off with peas and pine nuts to add a little freshness and crunch. The ample portion I was served was an appetizer, but would make a nice entree for lighter appetites. Heartier ones, too, as the dish can be ordered in a larger quantity as well.

The Minx and I are both fools for well-prepared duck dishes. Normally I order the duck, but we both felt it was her turn to feast on the fowl. Citron's Hudson Valley Duck "Duo" features a tender pan-seared duck breast served medium-rare coupled with a rich confit duck leg with crisp skin and meltingly soft flesh. A poached cherry reduction adds a sweet-tart piquancy; tamarind sweet potato mash and french beans round out this perfect fall meal.

Since The Minx went with poultry, I opted for one of the several seafood dishes on the menu: grilled Atlantic swordfish. The meaty fillet is accompanied by a harissa white bean mash that is so creamy, one might think it was whipped potatoes. It's interesting to note how Citron uses many alternatives to traditional starches. This creates interesting dishes that in many cases are gluten-free. The fish has a topping of tomato-olive compote with sauteed spinach on the side. A syrup made from the dessert wine Banyuls adds a sweet element, and a drizzle of green oil balances the sweet with a bit of herbal brightness.

Since Citron has a talented pastry chef in Yassmeen Jackson (who has her own sweet kitchen off the main kitchen), it would have been rude not to try some of their desserts. The chocolate macadamia nut bar came highly recommended, so I tried it. Our waiter described the dessert as something akin to a Snickers bar, and I can see his point, as it has macadamia nuts, caramel, and a creamy nougat-like element, all enrobed in chocolate. However, this is far richer and more subtle in flavor than any commercial candy bar. Dots of raspberry coulis add a contrasting acidic touch and edible gold leaf brings a bit of bling.

The Minx's lemon torte sandwiched coconut milk custard between two slices of gluten-free lemon sponge cake, topped with a generous ball of blackberry sorbet. It's perfect for those folks who prefer to finish their meals with something lighter and not chocolate.

Everything about Citron feels carefully crafted, from the decor to the menu to the service. Even the bread course is special, coming to the table with ramekins of butter sprinkled with pink Hawaiian sea salt and a delicious cheese spread. I can definitely see us heading to Quarry Lake for a birthday dinner or special occasion, or maybe even to have a pizza and a beer in the bar. I'm also eager to go back in the spring to check out the courtyard, which I'm sure will be in full swing by then.

2605 Quarry Lake Drive
Baltimore, Maryland 21209

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