We had dinner this Saturday evening at the Tilghman Island Inn, located at Knapps Narrows on Tilghman Island on the Eastern Shore. You can arrive by boat or car. The Inn has a reputation for fine dining, with Wine Spectator and Gourmet credits. We dined there last spring with another couple, had a wonderful meal from the tasting menu, and returned for what we hoped would be a repeat performance.
For those who have not visited the Tilghman Island Inn, it is the combination of a small inn and restaurant located directly on the Knapps Narrows water passage from the Bay to the Choptank River. There is an outside bar and casual dining area, which is a most pleasant place to enjoy food or drink and watch boats transit the Narrows. Inside there is a homey bar area, a well appointed restaurant for ordering from the menu, and an attractive, spacious room reserved for those dining from the tasting menu. Most tables have a view of the Narrows.
Unfortunately, our dining experience this weekend was a letdown from our expectations. The tasting menu at $49.95, consisted of five courses, each with at least two choices. We both had the fresh oysters (5) served with wonderful vinaigrette, they were fresh and plump as you would expect from a restaurant where oystering and crabbing is the livelihood of many in the area. For the second course my wife had the calves liver with a spinach tart. The liver was quite strong in flavor and the pastry of tart was somewhat gelatinous. My crab sandwich was very small, with so little crab in it that it was difficult to taste the crab, but the pastry was light and quite good. We both had the softshell crab fritter for the third course. This consisted of one-half of a softshell crab, breaded and deep-fried. There was too much breading and frying, leaving it difficult to enjoy the flavor of the crab.
For the entree from the menu, my wife opted for the red snapper with asparagus risotto. The snapper was very well prepared and delicious, though it seemed as if the risotto had been prepared then the asparagus added at the end of the preparation. I had the grilled beef tenderloins served with asparagus, small potatoes and onions. I ordered the tenderloin rare to medium rare, but the medallions arrived well done. It took almost fifteen minutes to catch the eye of our waitress, who apologized profusely. To the credit of the kitchen, a new dish arrived almost at once and perfectly cooked; the waitress said that the chef gave me someone elses order. The sauces which accompanied the courses were interesting and very well prepared, perhaps one of the better aspects of the tasting. The deserts were good, but not remarkable; a small creme brule with blue berries and a double chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream.
We had a Sonoma Valley Cutter 2000 Chardonnay with the meal (and a nice glass of red zin with the tenderloin). With tax and tip our bill was $175.00
Overall, we were somewhat disappointed, as the tasting menu seemed not as well executed as on our previous visit. There must have been some problems in the kitchen that evening as tables on either side of us had their checks adjusted for problems they had with their dinners. Not having dined from the menu offered in the main dinign area, we would still recommend the Inn for a nice place to have a glass of wine and lunch outside watching the boats pass by on a nice day.
(We will post a review of a recent meal at Ristorante Tosca is there is any interest.)