Prime Time at The Prime Rib

Lindsay Bull

Two of us visited Baltimore’s Prime Rib at 1101 North Calvert Street on a Friday night. The great thing about Friday nights is there is a jazz trio. So while I enjoy live piano music (as on the other nights of the week), live jazz is one of my favorite kinds of music to dine to. And let me say, they were great; a very talented group of men. We had the pleasure of sitting a couple of tables away from the trio, and they were not too loud at all.

Now, let’s talk about the food. Eating at the Prime ensures you will not go home hungry…or without leftovers! I don’t usually rave about the complimentary breads left out at the table to entice our taste buds. But this bread deserves a review. The outside had a delicate crunch, with a generous topping of poppy seeds and sesame seeds. Then once you tear it open, there is piping hot, pillowy soft sourdough bread. We each ate one loaf. Our server, Danny, offered to bring us more, but we reluctantly had to stop ourselves, else we would end up stuffed before the main event.

We started with The Tower. This truly was a tower of shellfish varieties and crab balls, resting upon hot rock salt. The Tower spanned the whole middle of our table! We started with the crab balls. At almost 2” in diameter, we could easily pop one in our mouth with a little dip of cocktail or tartar sauce they provided us with. Although I about fell in love with their zesty cocktail sauce (this must be homemade!) they didn’t even need any additional condiments. There was very little filler compared to the amount of crab, and I appreciated the crispness on the outside, even though they were broiled. The oysters Rockefeller were large and juicy, like a Blue Point oyster, although I did not inquire as to what type were used. The topping consisted of a scoop of what tasted like the house spinach, with melted butter combining with the briny juices created by the broiling of the oyster. Tender and full of flavor. The clams casino were our favorite. Tender little clams, with a punch of buttery flavor! The bacon on top was a thick cut. It is not often that I encounter a clam casino with crispy bacon, even when it's a thin slice. The Prime pulled it off; no soggy little bacon bit here. The oysters Chesapeake were a new and interesting taste for us. We have never had them before, but are glad we did! A heaping portion of moist, jumbo lump crab was broiled on top of the oyster. Such a unique and wonderful taste. I think the crab outshined the oyster a bit, but we had enough oyster varieties, so we didn’t feel like we were missing anything. He enjoyed the steamed shrimp. They were fresh and tender, not the least bit rubbery. I thought they were tasty, although shrimp does not tickle my fancy as much as bivalves, so I let him finish them in trade for the last oyster Chesapeake.

For entrees, I decided to go with the Chilean Sea Bass, since I know that seafood is one of their "best kept secrets." He chose, of course, the signature cut of prime rib. The thick sea bass was delicately flaky, topped with a white wine butter sauce. No signs of over- or under doneness. There was also a tomato-caper relish on the side. While this was tasty, again, I did not feel the fish needed anything additional. The flavor tasted like it had been caught five minutes before hitting the kitchen! His prime rib was one of the largest cuts of meat I have seen (aside from the full cut we witnessed at another table!). It was cooked perfectly to temperature, with a nice crust on the outside, and juicy red meat in the middle. There was enough fat to lend the meat an unparalleled juiciness and flavoring, without being "slimy." We liked the unique addition of shredded, fresh horseradish to complement the flavor, instead of the bottled stuff and A-1 that sometimes is needed to give a steak its flavor.

Our family-style side dishes pleased as much as our proteins. My favorite were the grilled artichoke hearts. Who would've ever thought to grill them? As creative as I am, I never did. They were a tad smoky, and somehwhat buttery. A squeeze of lemon juice gave them a perfect tang. They were just a hair salty, so I would request going easy on the salt when ordering. Do not make a trip to the Prime and pass these up! His favorite were the au gratin potatoes. Now, I can be pleased by even the boxed varieties (yes, guilty) but he is a bit more pickier than I with potatoes. Not dry, and not at all runny, the combination of cheese, seasonings, and cream made them silky smooth and sinfully delicious! We also had sauteed button mushrooms and spinach. They were tasty and fresh as well, but as our bellies filled up, we ran out of room to indulge much further.

"Would you care for a dessert or coffee?" Danny asked. We knew we had gone too far and were ready for naps. But, no true meal is complete without dessert. I asked what their lightest options were (note: a huge banana split graced the list of indulgent offerings) and we decided on splitting a key lime pie. Instead of a traditional graham cracker crust, it was prepared with a shortbread crust. This touch was a fun change from the ordinary! This was real key lime pie, like a love's labor of baking. While we meant to have just a few tastes, I'll admit, we did scrape the plate clean. Remember, it was the lightest option on the dessert menu....

The ultimate verdict? We would go back in a heartbeat for a special occasion, especially on a Jazz Trio Friday. There's a warm and welcoming staff, high quality food from amazing talent in the kitchen, a relaxed dress code, a beautifully deep color scheme of the dining room, and the Prime still feels old-school romantic (I love how the staff still dresses semi-formally). This is the kind of place that you could invite someone special to, for a truly elegant evening without feeling stuffy or out of place. Not to mention, plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day to enjoy the occasion once again.                 


View more delicious photos of The Prime Rib online here

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