My dad happened to be downtown last Friday and stopped by Tio Pepe, for old times' sake. There he was remembered by a veteran member of the staff who talked Dad into having lunch. It was restaurant week, and $20.10 seemed like a good deal for three courses. Dad always spoke highly of the place, but I've never been. I thought if Dad enjoyed this meal then perhaps Mr Minx and I should pay a visit to this Baltimore institution.
Rather than a verbal review, Dad did us one better - he gave us his doggie bag that contained half a portion of paella. And now we know there's no reason to dine at Tio Pepe's (which is what I've suspected all along). I've never had paella, but I know it's a saffron-hued rice dish with meat and/or seafood and a crusty bottom. (Ok, that part doesn't sound good, does it? But I'm imagining a crust like the one at the bottom of a portion of dolsot bibimbop). The stuff that constituted Dad's entrée was yellow-colored rice with a vague bell pepper flavor, a few green beans, and hard, arid chunks of boneless, skinless chicken breast (BSCB, for short). If it wasn't for the bell pepper, I doubt there would have been any discernible flavor at all. And the BSCB really pissed me off. I hate that restaurants feel they have to pander to the dieting masses who would rather eat a lot of something that has low fat and less flavor than to eat a small portion of something that actually tastes good (because fat = flavor). Chinese restaurants that serve orange chicken made with chicken breast also annoy me - it's fried for God's sake! How many calories does eating cardboard really save? But I digress (as usual).
So my first taste of paella, if you can call it that, was a huge disappointment. Dad said the first course, a black bean soup, was "nothing to write home about" and his flan dessert didn't seem to thrill him, either.
Has anyone been to Tio Pepe recently and had a good meal? Was this lunch an exception, perhaps due to Restaurant Week? (And if that's the case, the restaurant should have been embarrassed to serve that food. It's certainly not going to make repeat customers out of the first-time curious.)
*mispronunciation courtesy of Toby Young
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