Friday, June 08, 2007

Yin Yankee Cafe

Leaving the comfort of our air-conditioned home on the hottest day of the year so far (our car thermometer read 101 on the way home) to go to Annapolis probably wasn't the smartest idea in the world, but we had an appointment. While we were in the area, we decided to stop for lunch at Yin Yankee Cafe, on Main Street. The Baltimore Sun had given it a good rating, and Baltimore Magazine chose it as one of their favorites for 2006. We've been in an Asian mood lately (at least I have) so we decided to give it a try.

Yin Yankee is a relatively tiny place, funky and eclectic, with textured metallic gold walls and colorful, flat, blob-shaped pieces of glass suspended from the ceiling that gave the feeling of being in a giant lava lamp. A sushi bar/open kitchen dominated the room, and patrons could choose to sit and eat at a counter, diner-style (or, sushi bar-style), or at a table.

The problem with such small restaurants is that they often have one unisex bathroom. Unisex bathrooms mean one thing - pee on the floor. (Why do men have such horrible aim? Do they even aim?) I know a restaurant review is probably not the place to discuss bodily functions, but hygiene is kind of important. In addition to the sticky wet floor, Yin Yankee's bathroom featured an elaborate mural of a dragon, and a quirky cabinet that contained, among other things, an autographed photo of Ron Jeremy.

To the food. For his appetizer, my handsome dining companion went for the shrimp and veggie beignets with firey habanero sauce. I chose the chili pod fried calamari. Both servings were easily share-able by 2 or more. The large, crisp, puffy beignets were studded with big chunks of shrimp and small bits of vegetables (although I couldn't tell you what they were, as I was too absorbed in my app) and the dipping sauce was far from firey. It was garlicky, however, and rather like a twist on cocktail sauce. It had a sweet, ketchup-y quality, a bit of heat, and lots of savor. My calamari were served with a soy dipping sauce and a tasty pile of salad made from cucumbers cut into long thin noodles. The squid could have been crispier, but they were extremely tender - not even the barest hint of rubberiness - and the generous portion also contained quite a few of my favorite part, the tentacles.

For his entree, my companion (ok, it was my husband) chose the House of Yin Steak Sandwich - thinly sliced, grilled top sirloin with caramelized onions, marinated cucumbers, and creamy wasabi dressing. The sandwich was served on a warm baguette, dressing on the side, with a pile of waffle cut fries and a bit of peanutty Asian vegetable slaw. Far more firey than the habanero sauce, the wasabi dressing had a serious bite and made a perfect dip for the excellent, nicely salty fries, as well as the flavorful sandwich. I chose the Laos salad - baby spinach, oranges, basil, toasted pine nuts, golden orange-soy vinaigrette - with duck. The salad was small, but well dressed, with a generous portion of the pine nuts, and a healthy sprinkling of crushed fried won ton noodles on it too. And the duck was tremendous. There was about half a duck breast, sliced not-too-thinly, cooked perfectly medium, atop the salad. It was melt-in-the-mouth tender, and had a slight smoky flavor that hubby said was almost "like bacon." There was a crisp strip of skin on each slice, and absolutely no fat. I have no idea how they rendered the fat so well, but this was among the best duck dishes I have ever eaten.

I'd go back to Yin Yankee just for the duck. And I wouldn't mind trying some of the funky sushi rolls while I'm at it.

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