Though Mr Minx and I have written about Brio Tuscan Grille at least twice, we had never actually eaten there. Oh, we had both been in the space itself many times in the past; it used to be a Friendly's back in the day, before even Harborplace came to be. Needless to say, the place has changed quite a bit. Gone are the banana splits and clam boats--they have been replaced by chops and pasta, a few steps up on the culinary ladder.
Brio is currently offering a special Seafood Celebration menu, so when the restaurant invited us in to have a taste, we were happy to comply.
The prices are right and the portions are huge at this spacious restaurant facing Baltimore's Inner Harbor. (Your local outpost of Brio will offer similarly localized views.) To get to our window table, we walked past the large bar area, scaled to handle happy hour crowds. From our seats, we noted that the ample sidewalk area--much of which is in evening shade--will be perfect for al fresco dining in the upcoming warmer weather.
We started off our meal with three cocktails, variations on a theme, each containing a blackberry infused vodka and black raspberry liquor. The Blackberry Infused Cosmo also contained pineapple infused vodka, lime juice, and basil simple syrup, which made for a refreshing and not-too-sweet drink. The Blackberry Cooler had the basil simple syrup, but also pineapple and lime juices. My favorite was the Blackberry Fizz, which included Moscato and citrus juices. It will be a great summertime sipper with some light snacks.
Then the food started coming. Did I mention that the portions were generous? Huge, even? A plate of calamari with a mustardy aioli and marinara came first. There were also bits of breaded pepperoncini in there, so some bites were fairly spicy. I honestly prefer a lighter breading on my calamari, but this stuff was so fresh and well-cooked, I didn't mind the extra coating.
The Strawberry Balsamic Salmon Salad arrived next. It wasn't on our special menu, so it was unexpected, however, I am glad we got it. A small mountain of baby spinach, strawberries, grapes, bleu cheese crumbles, and spicy pecans dressed in an herb vinaigrette would have been a fine dish on its own, but it was also topped with a small slab of salmon. Keep in mind that Mr Minx and I have been doing Whole30 off and on since the fall, so we've eaten a lot of salmon recently, all of it grossly overcooked. I approached the salmon on this salad with caution, but was pleased to find it was perfect. The outside was lightly crisp, and the inside was super tender and moist. The best restaurant salmon I've had in a good long time. Considering the relative thinness of the filet, cooking it this well took some skill. I'd be happy to eat this salad again, for sure.
When the entrees arrived--three of them!--we were happy to see there was more of that salmon, this time in the Grilled Salmon Fresca, a dish of grilled asparagus, sweet potatoes, spinach, red peppers, feta, and tomatoes, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and a pesto vinaigrette. We also received the Lobster & Shrimp ravioli in a spicy black pepper cream sauce with spinach, roasted grape tomatoes, and a pile of shrimp. Lastly, the Shrimp Mediterranean involved spicy grilled shrimp over a bed of orzo pasta with farro, broccoli florets, asparagus, tomatoes, and spinach, topped with crumbled feta and pesto vinaigrette.
I'm happy to report that the dishes labeled "spicy" were indeed so. The black pepper sauce on the ravioli especially. It was quite rich and hearty, and tasted almost meaty, though the chef assured me that there was no meat stock in it.
We had to doggie bag most of the entrees to eat for lunch later in the week (bonus!) so we could fit dessert. A shared slice of the day's seasonal cheesecake, a rich caramel mascarpone affair, was a nice sweet finish.
Mr Minx and I rarely eat in the Inner Harbor area, though we'd be happy to add Brio to our dining rotation. There's plenty of (expensive) parking in nearby garages, but folks who work downtown have easy access to the restaurant. I think a future happy hour visit will be in order.
* All food items mentioned in this post have been provided to Minxeats by Brio Tuscan Grill However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.
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