August 27, 2008

Sotto Sopra

Certainly not a planned visit, my daughter and I decided to have lunch at Sotto Sopra because of its proximity to the Walters Art Gallery, which we visited on Thursday, August 14th.

The outside is cute with a canvas canopy overhanging what could be a sidewalk cafe. Inside we were greeted with a very artistic room full of painted walls, tall ceilings, and mirrors. The building appeared to be mid to late 19th century in age and was very interesting. The tables were close together giving us adequate access to conversations on both sides of us. And one of our neighbors must have thought that everyone in the restaurant wanted to know about his life in the theater and music industry.

We were quickly seated by an extremely sweaty waiter with wet arm pits. This helped to quell my hunger a bit. The restaurant was fairly crowded and it appeared that only 2 waiters were working the entire floor.

After viewing the lunch specials, we decided on our meal. My daughter chose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, fresh herbs, and lemon aioli with a mixed salad. I picked the Cappellini al Pomodoro fresca, which is Italian angel hair pasta with roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and garlic. My daughter asked for water and since I was driving my child, I chose a water, too.

The food took about 15 minutes, a bit longer than I would have hoped. We were really hungry. And thirsty as they didn't refill our water glasses as regularly as would be expected. Perhaps they poo-poo water drinkers. I do tip as if I had purchased a soda.

When our food was served it was definitely hot. My pasta was decent. It definitely tasted like fresh homemade pasta, but the flavor of the overall dish was somewhat bland. The portion was not that great, either. I was definitely still hungry when I finished.

My daughter's meal was a decent portion, but she said that the chicken was dry. Additionally, the mixed salad was somewhat on the bitter side. At meal's end she said it was okay, but knowing my daughter she was just being polite.

Overall, I was not impressed with our experience. The bill totaled about $35, which is fine, but I want to come out of a restaurant either full or satisfied with a good tasting meal. This time, neither of my hopes were fulfilled. Perhaps you can have a better experience with dinner. I would not recommend having lunch there.

August 21, 2008

Lebanese Taverna

719 S. President St
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 244-5533

This is the second time I've visited the Lebanese Taverna in Harbor East. One of the most striking things about this restaurant is its very modern, sleek and ethnic décor. You instantly feel hip when you walk through the doors.

My friend and I sat at the bar for awhile waiting on our other friend and I have to say, I would definitely come back here just to meet friends for a drink. I love the atmosphere. It also helps that the staff is incredibly nice and attentive. They offer a variety of flavored mojitos (I love a good mojito) and I decided to try a melon mojito. Delish! My friend got a raspberry mojito and it was also delicious (but I'd recommend the melon!).

Once our friend arrived, we were quickly seated for dinner. I wouldn't necessarily say that the server was fabulous but she wasn't awful. She brought out some fantastic bread with olive oil. A friend complained that the bread wasn't served warmly and I have to sort of agree here. We were served warm bread AT THE BAR.

One thing I love about this place is that wide variety of menu options. They have your meats, seafood and vegetarian entrees. I ordered the FATTEH BEL BATHENJAN - eggplant and chickpeas, topped with toasted lebanese bread, smothered with warm yogurt and sauteed pine nuts garnished with pomegranate seeds, when in season ($14).

It was good although a little too creamy for my palate.

My friend ordered the FATTEH BEL DJAJE - seasoned chunks of chicken breast layered over chickpeas toasted pita, smothered with warm yogurt sauce, pine nuts and garlic garnished with pomegranate seeds, when in season ($15).

I think she liked it? I didn't hear any complaints!

My other friend decided to order some tapas for variety. She got the FALAFEL - chickpea and fava bean fritters served with tahini ($6), BABA GHANNOUGE - eggplant puree with tahini, lemon juice and garlic with olive oil ($6) and (I think) the KIBBEH YOGHURTLIEH - small kibbeh balls topped with pita, yogurt, butter & pine nuts ($6).

I sampled some of the bab ghannouge and it was fabulous. She also seemed to enjoy her meal very much.

Overall - I'd recommend this restaurant. It's located in the uber hip Harbor East so parking may be somewhat of an issue but they offer valet! Even if you don't want to stop here for dinner, it would be a great start point for drinks and there are plenty of other restaurants in the area.

I do feel it necessary to mention, however, that my husband wasn't a big fan of this place the first time we tried it. I do have to agree that the food doesn't match the ambience but I still think it's worth checking out if you're in the area.

August 19, 2008

One World Cafe

100 West University Parkway
Baltimore, MD 21210

My husband and I decided to give One World Café a try mostly because I had decided to go vegan for the week. Sadly, Baltimore doesn't offer many vegan-friendly restaurants. One World happens to be 1 of 3 vegan friendly restaurants in the city.

Regardless - we made the trek across town to check it out. I hadn't visited this place in over 7 years and didn't remember it being anything but a coffee house/bar. I looked it up and was pleased to see that it offered so much more! Although some of the reviews weren't very promising. One of the biggest complaints was in regards to parking since it's located right by Johns Hopkins University.

We were surprised that we were able to park so easily, closely and for free. My husband pointed out that school wasn't in session so this was probably why it wasn't a problem.

We walked into the restaurant and were quickly seated. I thought our server was attentive and nice. She wasn't super friendly but I don't usually expect anyone to gush or hang about to make small talk.

Their menu is very user/vegan friendly and they clearly mark all menu items with a small "V" to indicate if the dish is vegan or not.

We started off with the Mexican refried pinto bean dip ($4.95) - Topped with house salsa, fresh cilantro & tortilla chips.

The dip was great. Our only complaint was that their chip to dip ratio wasn't very good and we were scooping a TON of dip onto one chip since there weren't enough chips.

I decided to get the Steamed Veggies & Ginger Baked Organic Tofu ($9.95) - served over organic brown rice, topped with tangy tahini sauce.

I thought the dish was good. Plenty of food and chock full of vegetables. I wasn't crazy about the ginger flavor or the tahini sauce but I should have known better. I wasn't really in the mood for something so "creamy" and that's exactly what the tahini sauce is. I think on another day, I would have loved this dish.

My husband went with the Lasagna ($13.95) - made of specialty cheese and pasta loaded with vegetables and made completely from scratch.

He liked his meal but said, "I wasn't overly impressed."

I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day and have to say this was fantastic! It's not often that I get to eat lasagna that is full of vegetables. Most likely - I would order this the next time I visit.

Overall - I'd recommend One World Café for vegans, vegetarians or those who have a vegan/vegetarian in their lives but who are omnivores. They have a wide variety of menu options that looks like it would satisfy all palates.

August 13, 2008

Pasticcio Italian Kitchen

2400 Boston St.
Baltimore, MD 21224

My husband and I are always on the lookout for a good pizza place. What can we say? We love pizza. Pasticcio's was recommended by some pals whose food critiques we fully trust.

One a particular weeknight, we were craving pizza but wanted to try our hand at a new place (instead of the usual place we love). Since we were curious about Pasticcio's, we thought it was a great opportunity to pop by.

Upon entering Pasticcio's, we were surprised to see that it was a sit-down restaurant (with carry-out) since the restaurant prior was more of a self-serve type establishment. The interior reminded me of a pizza parlor that would be located on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. Take from that whatever you will…

We shared a Greek salad as a starter.

The salad was okay and I have no real complaints about it. I mean, we ordered a salad in a pizza place - what do you expect? I was incredibly disappointed in the bread that they brought out with the starter. It reeked of frozen Italian bread (or at least national chain brand that you buy from the grocery store). It was hard and tasteless.

Onto the main course. I'm not quite sure why neither of us opted for pizza since that was what we were originally craving. I ordered a penne pasta dish that consisted of artichoke hearts and mushrooms.

I was served a pasta dish whose cheap-o canned sauce was watered down and tasteless. To make matters worse, it was served with what appeared and tasted like frozen Italian bread! I was incredibly disappointed.

My husband claimed that his cheesesteak was equally awful. That was about the only word he used to describe it and he's got a pretty unpicky palate when it comes to junk food.

While our waitress was very polite, she wasn't very attentive and after waiting for about 15 minutes for our check - my husband walked up to the counter to request it.

My friends were surprised that I didn't like this establishment so I'm willing to give it another shot - but I'm definitely going for pizza! We noticed a lot of customers picking up pizza so perhaps it isn't so bad.

My husband isn't quite so willing to go back and has deemed this place "Nasty-ccio's". Proceed with caution.

August 4, 2008


400 West Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 576-7777
Buffet Lunch - Mon-Fri: 11:30AM - 2:30PM
Dinner - Tues-Sat: 6:00PM - 9:00PM

This might be the worst good review I have ever written and it should be reason enough that I shouldn't wait so long to post a review on a restaurant.

Last week, Baltimore hosted its semi-annual Restaurant Week. This generally gives people a chance to branch out and try restaurants they either wouldn't normally try or it just gives people the idea that they must eat out as much as possible during this week.

My husband called me at work this past Thursday and asked if I was interested in trying out this restaurant. We're big fans of Indian food so finding a good Indian restaurant in the city is very exciting for us. He e-mailed me their sample menu and I was pleased to see vegetarian options (although most Indian restaurants are vegetarian-friendly).

The restaurant is located just outside of the famed Lexington Market (and was ridiculously difficult for us to find). While the area surrounding Lexington Market is a bit sketchy at night, there is a parking garage located directly across the street for customers.

When we walked into the restaurant, we were quickly seated at a u-shaped table. It was a bit strange to be sitting next to my husband while eating (since we normally sit across from each other when dining out). The restaurant was dimly lit and decorated with exotic pillows, lights, etc and was playing Indian music videos on a large projector screen against the wall.

The waiter was incredibly friendly and attentive.

Now here's the part where it helps to write a review the next day. Due to the dim lighting, I wasn't able to take any pictures therefore I don't really remember what I ordered. I can tell you that all of their orders are customized to the customer's preference (i.e. you can order something very spicy or mild).

Everything we tried was amazing. My husband's dishes were so spicy that he was sweating about 3 bites into his meal and he loved every bit of it. Between the appetizer, naan, entrée and dessert - it was impossible to finish everything so we requested a take-home bag.

The waiter neatly packed our leftovers and we were pleased to discover they he included an ice pack! We've never had that before.

We're definitely going to revisit Memsahib and highly recommend that everyone give it a try.