On Monday, after a dental appointment in Rock Hall, Kevin and I stopped into J&J Seafood for lunch. We had never been there before, but in hindsight we realized it's the kind of dining destination we have looked for in small towns all across the country. Owner operated, word of mouth advertising, minimalist atmosphere, great food. Of course, we are probably the last to know about this place, but so be it. Rock Hall has more than one culinary secret within it's boundaries, and we are happy to finally know about this one.
As usual, Kevin began his selection process with a few questions for the woman who was doing everything in the place. He really wanted the crab cake, but he also wanted the fish sandwich. Were the crab balls, listed as appetizers, the same as the crab cake, except for size? When he got the answer in the affirmative, he was ready to order. Both of us asked for the cream of crab soup, we were going to share the crab balls, and then Kevin got the rockfish sandwich and I requested the shrimp salad sandwich, on a roll.
When Kevin orders cream of crab soup and is happy with it, you know something magical must be going on. No one has tried and discarded more cups of cream of crab soup than Kevin. J&J's version was thick - too thick for my tastes - and delicious. Plenty of crab flavor and plenty of crab meat, plus a little kick of spicy, which served it well. I think I picked out maybe one piece of shell? Which we all know, basically serves to let the diner know that they are eating real blue crab from the Chesapeake and not some imposter from Indonesia. It was a classic, an example of why this ubiquitous menu item is so revered by Eastern Shore restaurants.
The crab balls continued to demonstrate J&J's respect for crab meat. Perfectly - meaning lightly - fried, so that they were holding together but just barely, the golf ball sized orbs were simply seasoned and very lightly filler-ed. I could not discern any filler actually, and if they were perhaps a little bland, it was only because they weren't over powered with Old Bay; a squeeze of lemon brought the sweet crab flavor to the surface. They were all the proof anyone would need that an excellent crab cake would come out of this kitchen.
Our sandwiches kept the meal on track. My shrimp salad was exactly as I'd hoped, and it's a hard thing to find - lightly dressed, big chunks of tenderly cooked shrimp, and enough on the roll to get shrimp in every bite. The roll left something to be desired - I think next time I'd order some kind of sliced bread or toast - but the filling was just right.
Kevin's rock fish sandwich, ordered fried and on the same par-baked roll, was probably the weakest dish of the bunch, and it was still very good, if over seasoned with some sort of spice mix that failed to let the flavor of the fish come through. Once more though, their kitchen showed it's strength in the cooking technique, and the quality of the fish was undeniable.
Mr. Picky Kevin was very happy! And when Kevin is happy, I am happy.
Now there is actually a reason to look forward to my Rock Hall dental appointments!