The 2014/Summer “Restaurant Week” dinner menu for the branch of Ryleigh’s Oyster in Cockeysville (it opened in 2013/November) was intriguing – no dessert course with instead two starter courses. (While and my best DiningOUT buddies along with me enjoy dessert, often times “Restaurant Week” desserts are “second string” and not the desserts that we’d be thinking of ordering so the interesting array of starters caught our attention!). It was a first time visit for us to Ryleigh’s so it made for even more of a “Restaurant Week” adventure!
The graphic on the men’s room door off of the main lobby grabbed our attention and left us wondering quite how to interpret it!
We were given our choice between a secluded dining room with about a dozen tables at the back of the restaurant or eating in main dining room/bar area. There was no one in the back dining rooom so we opted for the main space. It’s a very large long room (maybe 150 feet long!) with floor to ceiling windows along one long wall facing an equally huge outdoor deck with tables faces towards Padonia Road (Fortunately, there is a row of evergreens shielding the deck from cars driving past on busy Padonia Road!). At the far end of the space, there are large bars (both inside the restaurant and out on the deck) We were lucky to get a table for four right by the windows but we also found that large room with 15+ foot ceilings could get noisy enough to get in the way of conversation at times. Looking around, my observation was that most of the crowd (particularly out on the deck area) were mostly under 40 years old. Marty and I had enjoyed dinners at the former Gibby’s Seafood restaurant at this location – Ryleigh’s had clearly gutted the space and created a very different, casual dining environment.
Ryleigh’s regular menu offers a dozen-plus starters ($10-$14), Crab soups ($7), four Entree Salads ($11-$15), a dozen sandwiches ($10- $16; most with chips, a few include fries), and a dozen entrees ($14-$27). Their “Restaurant week” menu seemed mostly pulled from items on the regular menu. Ryleigh’s web site seems to be undergoing change and offered little information and no copy of the menu on their web site. Their “Facebook” pages offer menus – but Cockeysville/Hunt Valley location offers no prices and the separate site for their downtown Baltimore location is dated from 2013/Spring!
With our first course, JT picked the Beef Carpaccio, Tom went with Chargrilled Oysters, Marty opted for the Crispy Wonton Shrimp and I picked the Grilled Calamari. JT was pleased with the Carpaccio which garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese. (On Ryleigh’s regular menu, the Oysters and Calamari are usually $11, the Wonton Shrimp is $10)
Marty was less than impressed with his shrimp (which seemed pretty small and overwhelmed by the crushed wontons!)
Considering that this is Ryleigh’s Oyster House, Tom was pretty disappointed with his oysters – the oyster shells themselves registered as more clam size and the actual oyster meats were barely the size of his pinky finger nail (if that!) and pretty hidden under the topping of grilled cheese.
John didn’t fare much better than Tom – his grilled Calamari was rubbery and the kimchee accompanying it was salty and tasted off.
For our next course, Marty opted for the Crab Soup, JT picked the Heirloom Tomato Salad, Tom with a spinach and romaine salad, and I ordered the Gazpacho.
The soups were disappointing.and arrived looking amazingly similar. Marty’s crab soup arrived room temperature and he had to send it back to be heated; the gazpacho was surprisingly as warm as it was outside on a muggy August evening instead of chilled. The Crab soup was lacking in much crab. The Gazpacho has one small pickled shrimp (per the menu description) but it was contained more mild tasting tomato broth than diced summer veggies and didn’t come close to my hopes for a tasty summer gazpacho!
Our friends fared much better with their salads! Tom was really pleased with the mix of Romaine and baby spinach with a creamy garlic dressing while JT found his heirloom tomato salad garnished with pickled red onion, basil leaves, goat cheese and a bit of mascarpone cheese spread very tasty and satisfying.
For our main course, both Tom and Marty opted for the Crab Cake while JT decided on the Scallops and John chose the Duck Confit. (There’s a two crab cake for $27 on the main menu but the other two items were not on the regular menu)
Both Marty and Tom were happy with their big 8 oz crab cake which was accompanied by a summery cucumber salad and french fries.which made for a good combination! Both commented that the crab cake wasn’t overly padded with fillers and right tasty!
JT enjoyed his pan roasted scallops which arrived on a small bed of parmesan risotto with grilled summer squash and zucchini.
John’s Duck Confit included a pretty small leg duck leg was tender and not overly fatty yet otherwise plain; some accompanying sour mustard sauce offered a contrast both with the duck as well as with fingerling potato salad.
Service was hard to judge – it seemed that every course was delivered by different server assistants. The primary server dealt with our drink orders but finding assistance when needed (e.g., when Marty wanted his soup heated) wasn’t always easy or obvious.
By the end of our meal, Marty and I were less than enthusiastic about most of what we had sampled and had concluded that Ryleigh’s seemed far more likely to succeed with simpler, more straight forward dishes than their attempts with more sophisticated offerings. Our take was that it might be a great place for drinks, shared starter and sandwiches and that we probably would avoid the more complicated, upscale and costly items on a return visit. (Given that thinking, we would also suggest that Ryleigh’s might be a better place to try for lunch – rather than dinner – if you’re tempted to give it a try during “Restaurant Week”.
FACTS: Ryleigh’s Oyster – Cockeysville/Hunt Valley; 22 W. Padonia Road (between Rte 83 and York Road); 410.539.2093; http://www.ryleighs.com (same url functions for both Cockeysville and downtown Baltimore locations but offers little information pending a web site revision); Full Bar; Limited vegetarian options; adjacent free parking (as well as formal entrance!) at rear of the building. Last DiningOUT visit on Thursday, 8/21/14.