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Acacia offers flavorful fusion in Frederick

March 28, 2011

By ANNE CHOVEY

Special to The Herald-Mail

FREDERICK -- It has been awhile since Pap Ricka and I ventured outside of Washington County in search of a good dinner.

So recently we were joined by some friends and headed into downtown Frederick, Md., to see what was there. We spotted several interesting places but settled on Acacia Fusion Bistro as our choice.

Acacia is located on North Market Street and is a short walk from the Church Street parking garage across the street.

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It is in an old building, which might have been a shop of some sort at one time with big windows in the front.

You enter into a bar area, which was very lively and energetic the night we were there. We were greeted and ushered to the dining area passing through a small dining room into the larger one in the back.

The d├ęcor is fitting to an old building with wainscoting, exposed brick and white columns in the various rooms.

The layout is a tad awkward as it is a narrow building so the rooms telescope off one another. As can be the case in old spaces you must step up and step down before you arrive in the back dining room. But the quirks add charm to the space that feels intimate and inviting.

Our waiter met us immediately, gave us water and offered to take our drink orders.

Acacia has a nice wine list and it took awhile to decide if we wanted a bottle or glass, red or white.  Our waiter came back several times to see if we had made up our minds, but we were chattering away. He was very patient.

Once we finally decided on a wine, we got down to business with the menu. Acacia has a nice variety of first and second courses along with a carefully chosen selection of main courses.

Our waiter informed us that much of the ingredients were local: The cheeses come from Palmyra Farm here in Washington County.

While there are some staples on the menu, the chef enjoys changing it up and so there are daily specials to consider as well.

The initial courses were between $9 and $14 while the main courses ranged from $20 and $30.

First courses had a variety of seafood options such as tuna or mussels along with pate and mushrooms. Second courses focused on an interesting variety of salads.

Pap selected an arugula salad with beets, sugared walnuts and blue cheese. I chose the calamari fritti with arugula and a lemon-basil yogurt aioli.

While we awaited our salads, our waiter brought us a "gift" from the chef: a tiny seafood croquette with a dab of sauce on a tiny plate. Very nice.

He also brought us a basket of fresh bread made at the bakery nearby. Also very nice.

The salad was substantial and Pap really liked it. The ingredients were fresh and tasty.

My plate of calamari was huge. The calamari was meltingly tender with a nice crunchy coating. The aioli was bright and delicious. There was enough that I ate my fill and had plenty to share.

For the main course, Pap chose the Maine salmon, which was on the menu. One of our friends ordered the Kung Pao chicken, which was also a menu item. Our other friend and I ordered specials. He ordered the seared scallops, which our waiter recommended.

I selected the hake. (I once made hake at home  It is a rather muscular fish and I did it so badly that I thought it would jump up off the plate and wrestle with me. I wanted to taste it done properly.)

Everyone was delighted with dinner. The food was beautifully presented: the scallops on a rectangular plate with artfully spread bits of squash.

My fish and Pap's were presented identically. Both the salmon and the hake perched atop a mound of red beet risotto. Very pretty.

The hake was perfectly cooked and in no way resembled my burly home version. It was moist and tender but kept its firm texture.

The risotto was beautiful, but I felt it lacked a bit of flavor. Roasted beets are wonderfully sweet and I thought the risotto didn't capture that as much as I had hoped.

Pap was a little disappointed that his salmon was smaller than my hake (but I didn't share.)

We rounded out the night with dessert:  I had the Acacia cream pie -- a circle of sweetness and chocolate.

Pap got the flourless chocolate cake -- decadent. Our friends shared angel food cake and berries -- light and tart.

It was a fun evening. As we lingered over our dessert and coffee, our waiter took care of the check but assured us we could stay as long as we wanted. It was a good place to be.

Anne Chovey is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Acacia

4 stars (out of 5)

Food: 4

Service: 4

Ambiance: 4

Value: 3 1/2

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10: 30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Food: Upscale food with an emphasis on local ingredients.  Menu items are marked as gluten free, vegetarian or vegan options.

Bathroorms: Clean, but tiny and with accessibility issues.

Parking and handicapped accessibility: There is a parking garage about half a block away from the restaurant.  As the building is old there are steps that must be navigated to get to the middle and back dining rooms.

Reservations: Recommended and can be made online.

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