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Mama's On The Half Shell, Canton

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I would highly recommend Mama's on the Half Shell. Excellent seafood at reasonable prices. BBQ'd oysters, scallops and softshells over fired green tomatoes were all winners when we ate there.

Pazo, is good but has had inconsistencies lately. Last time I was there I was served a white wine from Campania (the name escapes me) that was not chilled in the least. When I informed the server of this, she told me that "people in the Mediterranean drink there whites warmer and reds colder." Well I know this wine was not supposed to be served at the same temperature as a California cab.

Brewers Art is also very nice, great selection of house beers and good food to match. I noticed that Chef Ravi has left and that his #2 guy is running the kitchen now. I am sure the place won't skip a beat though.

Four of us went to Mama's on the Halfshell on Saturday evening. The restaurant was crowded, but it was still possible to carry on a conversation. I shared a dozen oysters with my brother-in-law, and we had four each of the three varieties they offered. Those were bluepoints from Long island, Chesapeake and another type that was very small, and the name of which I've forgotten. The Chesapeake oysters were really outstanding, and the bluepoints were nearly as good. Both were sweet and briny, with the Chesapeake having a nicer finish. The other type didn't have a lot of flavor, which may explain why I can't remember the type.

I had the soft shell crabs for my main course. Another of us had proscuitto wrapped halibut, two of us had scallops, one meal had 'em broiled, and the other pan seared. When you get your main course from the menu, you have a choice of sides. I was told by my companions that the mac 'n cheese should have been sharper, either with a little bleu cheese or a sharper cheddar. The scallops were just about perfectly done. I prefered the pan seared scallops, but that's a matter of preference. The haddock was really wonderful, with the salty ham accenting the fish perfectly.

The crabs were another matter. This dish comes with rice and fried green tomatoes. Unfortunately, the soft shell crabs were past the point of having really soft shells. The shells had already begun hardening, and while they were still edible, the crabs were tough enough that an attempt to cut through them just resulted in the meat being extruded like a sort of paste. Couple this with the fact that they were dredged in Old Bay, then fried at too low a temperature, and you had crabs soggy with oil and overwhelmed with the seasoning. The fried green tomatoes were also cooked in oil that wasn't hot enough, and as a result the coating was oil soaked and kind of gooey. The rice was fine. However, I cannot recommend this particular dish. The kitchen, at least on this night, doesn't seem to have a fry cook who has a grasp on how to fry these foods, and the crab vendor was selling crabs a couple of days past their prime.

On a much brighter note, the short wine list was a well chosen list of very interesting wines, and the prices were very reasonable. The white wines were priced in the low to mid 20's for the most part, with the occasional bottle bumping against 30 dollars. This may make Mama's the area's top wine bargain.

Overall, the dinner was quite good for three of us, and the wine list is very well thought out. But stay away from the soft shell crabs unless you confirm that conditions have changed.

Wayne Rash

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Today was a perfect day for al fresco dining. Mr. S and I met up with an old friend and ate here on his suggestion. This is a great representation of a B'more restaurant that is not a dive, but represents B'more well. The soft shell sandwich was a special today, and was quite good. I also really enjoyed a variety of oyster that I've never heard of before..the Connecticut Cup. Both Mr. S and our friend had the crab soup, which was pretty amazing. Don't get me wrong, this is not a soup like Frank Ruta makes. It is a traditional red crab soup, except for the fact that it looks like someone took an ice cream scoop of crab meat and dropped it in the middle of the bowl. Now this is not a huge bowl, mind you, but in addition to the huge dollop of crab meat, there were two extremely plump and meaty claws.

As it's been a verrry long time since we've seen this person, we didn't focus too much on the food. Friend had Oysters Rockefeller or Clams Casino, I can't recall. Mr. S had a grilled tuna sandwich and had no complaints. Both Mr. S and I had the french fries, which were surprisingly quite good. They kept their crispiness even in the outdoors, and a shake or two of Old Bay was the perfect addition. All in all a nice spot if you find yourself in the neighborhood, hon.

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