Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hell Point Seafood

The culinary curse of Annapolis continues.

For my birthday on the 17th of July, Rod took me and some friends to Hell Point Restaurant, the new venture by Bob Kinkead. We had particular reason to look forward to this meal. First, we were thrilled at the prospect of a decent restaurant in downtown Annapolis; second, we had our wedding luncheon ten years ago at Kinkead's in Washington, D.C., a memorable meal wonderfully prepared and served by the staff.

We were quite happy with that first visit. The restaurant was perhaps one-third full, and servers hovered attentively, perhaps overly so. The food was fresh and nicely presented. I had a delicious rock fish; Rod ordered a Portuguese fish stew; our friends consumed halibut and crab cakes. The menu, while small, was interesting, and I appreciated the extensive wine list, which includes some moderately priced labels.

Hell Point took over what was originally Phillip's Seafood, a cavernous, touristy venue right near the dock. The look is a bit more contemporary--painting and a few decorative touches have spruced up the interior--but it is not an especially attractive space.

We were, however, sufficiently pleased with the food and service to return in early August with my stepdaughter when she came down to visit from NYC. Alas and alack, nearly everything we liked initially had deteriorated. It was a Friday night, and the restaurant was nearly full, but neither the kitchen nor the staff could cope with the number of diners. We pleaded repeatedly for our bottle of wine; we waited endlessly for food to arrive; and we tried in vain to flag down our waiter. I sent my tepid, unappealing food back to the kitchen, only to wait a half-hour before a new meal arrived. Megan had the seafood stew Rod had tried three weeks earlier, only this time it was woefully overcooked. Rod's pork was, in all fairness, good but hardly stellar. Our waiter apologized, but it will be a long time before I try Hell Point again.

The restaurant should take notice: they are rapidly garnering a bad reputation. My hair salon is staffed by avid foodies, and the lousy service and erratic kitchen at Hell Point was a principal topic of conversation when I last went for a haircut. It seems that not even Bob Kinkead can overcome the culinary curse of Annapolis.

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