Friday, August 01, 2008

Baltimore Restaurant Week Summer '08 - Tabrizi's

I had been looking forward to eating at Tabrizi's ever since they reopened a year or so ago at Harborview. I had never been to the original Federal Hill location (it was Fed Hill, right?) but I had always heard good things about the place. Now was my chance to taste for myself.

I was extremely disappointed.

Mr Minx and I had perused the Restaurant Week menu several times and had pretty much made our decisions before we even walked in the door. We were a few minutes early for our early 5PM dinner (hey, I work downtown and get off at 4:30! I'm not sticking around the office just to eat at a more fashionable hour) and the restaurant seemed very large and bright from the sun streaming in all of the windows on the east side of the building, facing the marina. We were seated near, but not within an area that looked like it could be opened up on both sides to let in the salt air. Or the humidity. Thankfully the doors were closed.

The walls were painted a curious school bathroom-ish pale blue/green which didn't quite go with the dark burgundy curtains with heavy tassel detail. The blue may have been picked to match the light color in the decorative motif over the open kitchen, but I just found it distracting. Because I hate that color.

Anyway, enough on the decor. On to the meal.

Mr Minx chose for his appetizer the "grilled house-made grape leaves stuffed with lamb and rice, finished with extra virgin olive oil, served warm with herbal goat cheese." They tasted like grape leaves. Nothing special. The goat cheese had a little kick to it, according to my husband, but I couldn't tell because the sauce on my appetizer was very spicy. And the texture of the cheese was a little too thick and dry to do anything but overpower the grape leaves. Their thinness didn't allow for much stuffing, so there wasn't any noticeable lamb in them. I must confess I prefer old-fashioned fat grape leaves with a nicely tart and lemony sauce.

Appearance-wise, although the plating was nice, the size and shape of the rolls reminded me a little too much of something I might find in the litterbox.

My "sautéed baby octopus and calamari, tossed with spicy chili garlic sauce, garnished with teardrop tomato relish and lemon zest" was terrific. There was a big tangle of tender calamari and two whole baby octopi (you can see one in the middle there, head, eyes, and all - lobotomized for my protection; the other one is rudely showing us his bottom) swimming in a sweet and highly spicy sauce that had vaguely Asian qualities. I kinda wished there was less sauce and more of the tomato relish because it had such a nice tangy-ness, and I love micro-arugula.

This was a dish I would order again.

Considerng we were one of only two parties in the restaurant, our entrées arrived after an interminably long wait, for which the waiter apologized.

Mr Minx ordered the "Lamb Kebobs glazed with veal reduction, served with basmati rice, fresh sautéed organic vegetables and pine nuts." Our waiter had specifically asked if we wanted our entrées "cooked to temperature," which seemed like a very awkward way of asking "how would you like that cooked?" Medium was requested. Very well done was received. I have no idea where the veal reduction action took place, but the meat definitely could have used some sauce. I didn't taste the rice, and Mr Minx was hard pressed to describe any flavor.

I ordered the "Muscovy duck breast, encrusted with Ancho chili-cocoa, pan-seared topped with marinated pears, served over Mesclun greens and fruit," expecting some sort of elegant composed salad. What I got was this bizarre juxtaposition of autumn and summer. My duck was also not prepared to medium as I requested. Fortunately, it was still relatively juicy and tender. The fat had been rendered nicely, but the skin was soggy because of the hot pear topping, and there was no noticeable ancho chili or cocoa flavors. Nor salt, for that matter. The pears weren't particularly flavorful, and they had that odd gritty texture that pears sometimes do. The greens were dressed with a faintly tart but otherwise uninteresting vinaigrette. The fruit was a mixture of blueberries, tiny squashed-looking blackberries, and cubes of mango. I thought it was a real mess, something put together by an amateur with little concept of plating or how food flavors work together.

This unadorned plate of worms/bran buds/Plah-Doh after a trip through a Fuzzy Pumper play set is actually Mr Minx's chocolate mousse. Or, more accurately, chocolate ganache - melted chocolate whipped with heavy cream. If it was real mousse, with egg in it, I'd be very surprised. It tasted ok, but really wasn't worth the effort of washing out the ricer. And a garnish of some sort would have been appreciated.

I had the creme brulée. Proper creme brulée should be refrigerated after bruléeing, so the crust can get appropriately crackly. This guy was still hot on top. Tasted fine though, and I really liked the extra-burnt flavor of the sugar. The strawberry had moldy spots on the underside, however, and the toasted almond slices were soggy. I'm not sure what flavor that sauce was supposed to be. It tasted...red. Sorta.

When our waiter asked how things were, I told him truthfully that the meat was overcooked, my "salad" was a hot mess, and showed him the strawberry. He apologized, invited us to return, saying the restaurant can "do better", and kindly took the two glasses of wine we had off the check, saving us $18.

At least the wine was good.

Tabrizi's
500 Harbor View Dr
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 727-3663

Tabrizi's on Urbanspoon

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