A New Captain

Carmine’s roasted Chilean sea bass topped with shrimp (Photo by Heidi Reuter)It’s February, and that means wining and dining N’awlins style. By the time I got to Carmine’s in Bryn Mawr, orig-inal chef/owner John Mims had departed. But it didn’t take long for executive chef Christopher Van Ness to win me over with an improvised sextuplet of oysters. They usually serve them fried, but I had a hankering for raw. I easily downed my “shooters,” lapping up every bit of the cocktail sauce and lemon aioli.

The seafood gumbo was lighter than I expected, with a nice roux flavor and subtle, creeping spice. It was better than an étouffée that, while packed with sweet, juicy crawfish, missed the mark on seasonings. The crab claws were also meaty—and tasty, too. Alas, the white wine, garlic, butter and grated Asiago sauce was a little too heavy and began to congeal as the dish cooled. With its sweet heat, crispy-tender contrasts and tangy dressing, the lump crabmeat, blackened shrimp and artichoke hearts over a bed of greens hit the spot. Other favorites: the short ribs (smoky, tender and bold) and the amazing sweet potato frites (hot, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and perfectly salted).

Dinner at Carmine’s will run you $100-plus for two (without dessert). Whether you’d be apt to spend more at a table or on a barstool depends on whether you succumb to the three-course tradition. Me, I prefer a cozy spot at the bar, where I can unwind with a cocktail and take my time ordering. Either way, Carmine’s delivers.

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818 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 520-9100,

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!