Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sobo Cafe

SoBo Cafe is my new favorite restaurant. Owner Anna Leventis hosted a signing for Baltimore Chef's Table a while back and it was a great success. Not only did we sell out of the book, mostly to SoBo's regular clientele, but we also had a terrific meal. Can't beat that combo!

I can't drink (on anticoagulants--hopefully a temporary situation) so I asked for a mocktail, any flavor. I was rewarded with a virgin strawberry mojito, full of berry and mint flavors, and did not even miss the rum. (Hey, I'm high on life anyway.) Mr Minx and our dining companion MinxBro made do with brewskis.

When I spotted the beet salad with frisee and pistachios on the menu, I knew it had to be mine. Yes, I am boring and always order the beet salad, but I like beets! I also like pistachios. The beets, both red and yellow, were tender and sweet, and worked nicely with the acidy dressing on the bitter greens.

As much as I enjoyed the salad, I wished I had ordered one of the two soups. MinxBro went for the chilled tomatillo soup. Seasoned with a hint of smoky chipotle and garnished with caramelized tomato and lots of cilantro, it was lovely. Rather than being gazpacho-like, the soup was made with a creamy substance (yogurt or cream) which gave it a nice body and smoothness.

Mr Minx chose the corn bisque with saffron butter and chives. Served piping hot, the soup tasted of pure corn and sweet butter. (When my brother and I were kids, we liked nothing more than to devour an entire box of Green Giant frozen niblets in butter sauce.) This soup was creamy and rich without feeling too decadent. Despite the saffron.

MinxBro couldn't resist the SoBo Burger, made with Creekstone Farms beef, applewood smoked bacon, roasted tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar, and house-made mayo on a house-made roll. I forgot to mention the bread we were served (and devoured) while waiting for our appetizers. Like the hamburger roll, it was made in house and it was. So. Good. Crusty without being painful, with a tender and flavorful crumb, I wanted to ask for more, but didn't want to be a pig (the slices were generously-sized).

The burger was pretty perfect, juicy and moist and cooked to the requested medium. Loved the salad and roasted fingerlings on the side instead of the usual boring fries.

Mr Minx and I were both eyeing the Korean chicken fried steak. Korean fried chicken is a thing, so why not Korean chicken fried steak? It was served with kimchi collard greens, soy-garlic mashed potatoes, and a puddle of ssamjang gravy. I don't know why more places don't borrow flavors from Korea. It's not like they're particularly difficult--sugar, soy, garlic, sesame, chiles. The collards were tender and pretty spicy, but the heat was tempered by the ample serving of potatoes.

All of the servings were pretty ample, actually, and quite reasonably priced. I ended up ordering the roasted monkfish, because I hadn't had monkfish in eons. (Yes, I am that old.) The portion was huge, 8 ounces easily, on a mound of vinegary panzanella (bread salad) enhanced with lots of crisp corn kernels and a swath of arugula pesto. There were also some lardons of pancetta. Maybe the fish didn't need all of those things, but I enjoyed the combination and had no trouble polishing it off.

Dessert was tempting, but we passed and instead took our place at the front table to sign autographs. Within a short amount of time, all of SoBo's stock of Baltimore Chef's Table was gone, and we hit the road happy, with full bellies.

A shame the restaurant isn't in our neighborhood; we'd definitely become regulars.

SoBo Café on Urbanspoon

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