Adventurous Dining in the Space Age

Sputnik Café
1397 General’s Highway
(Behind Saunders Florist)
Crownsville, Maryland
Moderately Expensive
Salads and Soups: $7 to $12
(Plus the starter sampler at $20)
Entrees: $17 to $26
All major credit cards accepted.
Closed Monday
Tue. - Thu.: 5 to 9 p.m.
Fri. and Sat.: 5 to 10 p.m.
Sun.: 5 to 9 p.m.

Five decades ago, world powers, including the superpower Unites States, were lulled into a laid back state of “let’s see what happens next” in the world of space exploration. Then there was a quiet countdown in Russia–on October 4, 1957 the USSR launched Sputnik into orbit. The space race was on!

One can relive the energy generated by that historic era by landing on Sputnik Café for a meteoric meal. It’s almost a stealth restaurant, because it’s located next to and behind Saunders Florist on General’s Highway. But you may be able to spot a new Sputnik sign by the time you read this issue of Inside Annapolis Magazine.

Just four miles north of Parole, on the East side of General’s Highway, is one of the best-kept-secrets in the Annapolis area, Sputnik Café. The innovative eatery features a menu that brings touches from the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, France, Portugal and Mexico.

Although the original Sputnik space explorer was not more than the size of a basketball with some protruding signal probes, the art deco chandelier in the main room of the restaurant makes a space era statement—it’s really more reflective of a giant shooting star, and also the centerpiece of an eatery that exudes futuristic energy found in its décor and menu offerings.

Appetizers that were tasted on two dinner occasions by a total of six diners included Thai lettuce wraps—Romaine lettuce filled with chicken braised in Asian spices, bean sprouts, cilantro and chopped peanuts. This proved to be a light and gently spiced combination as well as a prudent beginning on a menu loaded with spices from mild to hot. Chicken and shrimp lumpia rolls, a Philippine delicacy, were spicier and, since some of us enjoyed hot and spicy more than others, we requested that the chef put extra spicy sauces on the side. The excellent servers know which are the more explosive sauces.

The salmon tempura called for nori rolls filled with salmon, asparagus, shiso leaves and served with a julienne vegetable salad that was delicious. The Korean BBQ Kobe beef was tasty and tender and was served on an innovative buckwheat noodle salad. We appreciated the side sauces when the fiery quotient went up. The asparagus bisque was a smooth coriander cream with shrimp, onion, carrots and ginger, garnished with a sea scallop.

The above choices were items in the Sputnik three-course menu of $30 dollars total that included choices from five starters and five main courses. We found this to be good value for the cost and an excellent beginning for the first time diner at this little gem of a fusion restaurant. A selection from four house-made desserts was also part of the package. We ordered all four—key lime cheesecake, flourless chocolate cake, creme brulée and cappuccino cake. The favorite among all four diners on that occasion was the key lime cheesecake.

On another visit, I would recommend, from the starter menu, the Sputnik starter sampler that includes the Kobe beef, Thai lettuce wrap, lumpia rolls and seared tuna salad—all for $20.

Our entrées included the panko encrusted sea scallops that were crispy on the outside and lusciously tender on the inside, decidedly another favorite. The pan-seared Tasmanian salmon was rectangular shaped sitting on a bed of bulgur wheat salad and asparagus, and as requested had the smoky tomato coulis at its side. It was voted an extraordinary piece of salmon that was cooked to perfection. We learned that it is regularly flown in from Hawaii. The Asian-spiced prime rib eye steak was rare, as ordered, and just right, along with tempura battered onions and green curry butter. The Caribbean-spiced organic chicken breast was tender and moist, and was milder in the spice department than the other selections.

In the midst of all this taste sensation, we were definitely aware of the atmosphere. The ‘50s decor and classic retro pieces are fun and futuristic with surprising treats such as the orange and gray plastic Oh chairs from cutting edge designer Karim Rashid. Orange string room dividers set aside areas that seat a total of 50 people. A semi-wall inset with a modern sculpted glass panel divides a table for ten from the main dining room. Large art pieces reminiscent of Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keefe are carefully placed at the entrance, on the dining room walls and in the adjacent sculpture garden where 20 additional guests may be seated.

The three proprietors, Bill and Maria Buszinski and David Brown, each wear many hats since they are artists, cooks and business managers. The trio has created something different from the crowd. Bill serves as the oenologist and takes wine lovers on a virtual global experience to boutique wineries in his effort to provide “the best wine list of quality and value in the area.” Sputnik cocktails are high-quality concoctions embracing a spectrum of martinis as well as margueritas, mohitos and more. The beer list offers several dozen brands, primarily from Belgium, with other specialties from Germany, England, Scotland, the USA and other ports of call. In all, it’s a trip!


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