Sunday's dinner was at Taste, a moderately new restaurant in Belvedere Square. Housed in a former Hess shoe store, the multi-level eatery displays a chic decor that belies its fairly traditional New American menu.
Dinner starts out with a basket of cut-up bread pieces (odd, that) and little dishes of a nice sundried tomato olive oil and an assortment of olives. I'd like the bread to be heartier, and to be cut in regulation slices, rather than floppy strips. After perusing the menu, my husband and I both decided on specials, the "chicken a la Taste" for him, and the horseradish-encrusted filet for me.
For starters, he had their version of shrimp and grits, and I went with the goat cheese salad. The shrimp and grits was rather Italianate in flavors - tons of parmesan cheese in the grits made them rather risotto-like in texture, and bits of proscuitto lent their salty bite to the large shrimp. It was nothing like my favorite version of this classic, that of Louisiana restaurant in Fells Point, but it was a tasty change. My goat cheese salad comprised a generous portion of baby greens, lightly cooked red onion, and "sweet spiced pecans" - pecans that seem to have been dipped in a seasoned egg white mixture and baked. They had a meringue-like quality about them, softly crunchy, but not too sweet. This combo was tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette and topped by two breaded rounds of fried goat cheese that oozed onto the greens when cut with a fork.
The "Chicken a la Taste" was one of the oddball Tex-Mex dishes sometimes featured at the restaurant - a chicken breast topped with a black bean and corn mixture, served on saffron rice. The chicken was nicely tender but still juicy, the beans and corn mildly spiced, and the somewhat medicinal quality of saffron made the dish like a deconstructed Mexican paella. My husband ate every drop. My 5oz filet was medium-rare and fork tender, and served on an unctuous mound of garlicky Yukon gold potatoes, with some zucchini and broccolini on the side. The horseradish did not so much encrust the filet as top it. It had a grated texture so I assume it was from a fresh root, but surprisingly it did not offer any of the expected nose-clearing qualities as the raw version. It was good nonetheless. With our meal we drank a 2002 Iron Horse Pinot Noir that had a nice cherry nose.
My husband ordered the dessert that intrigued me most - apple fritters with vanilla bean ice cream and homemade caramel sauce. Two tempura-battered and fried rings of apple flanked a large scoop of ice cream and luxuriated in a drizzle of the very excellent caramel. My German chocolate mousse was so-so - a wine glass layered parfait-style with chocolate "mousse," coconut-flavored whipped cream, and topped with toasted pecans and coconut. The "mousse" is in quotes, as I believe it to have been stiffly whipped cream with melted chocolate added, rather a light ganache than the classic egg-enriched and smoother-textured mousse. The flavor was nicely chocolatey, but a bit monotonous, despite the other ingredients which merely added a bit of crunch.
Taste isn't perfect, but the food is reasonably priced and pretty darn good. It's a nice upscale neighborhood restaurant, and we do plan to eat there again in the future. There's an open kitchen on the bottom level, and I'll probably request to be seated there next time.
Something else I recommend - use Open Table for your restaurant reservations! It's a nationwide service, many top restaurants use it to handle all of their reservations, and using the Web interface is a snap. Plus, the more reservations you make and keep, the more points you earn towards a gift certificate to use in a participating restaurant. Mmmm...free food!