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Restaurants That Have Slipped. Baltimore

Are there any restaurants out there you used to think were good but not anymore? Another poster somewhere said the Helmand and I would have to agree. The Helmand was one of my faves for years but the last two times I've been there were disapointing. The entrees lacked the usual subtle distinction of flavors. They just seemed thrown together. The beef on one of their regular specials was also so chewy it was had to swallow. The big price increase doesn't help either. Although I would grant them higher prices if the food hadn't become so average. My other choice is Salt. That restaurant rocked when it first opened and for a year or so later. I have been there since ,about four or five times, and don't even remember what I had. I keep expecting to taste something like the sublime Hungarian goulash they used to have on the menu. The last time I was there I had the ginger beer marinated ribs that came highly recommended. They came out tasting sickly sweet with no other flavor to speak of. Never again.

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  1. I enjoyed Talara when it first opened but stopped in last month and was very disappointed. It seems to have succumbed to the Inner Harbor restaurant mentality- this business is built in so mediocre food is enough.

    1. The Helmand really is a good answer. As much as the fossilized menu has gone bland the real problem is the service. They pack the place beyond belief so that even if you have a reservation you'll be jammed in somewhere in the bar area (without a bartender) for an hour and then be seated at a cramped table in the hallway. Not worth it any more.

      1. b has also gone downhill which is owned by the same people as the Helmand. Hate the new menu and have talked to many people who agree

        1. Abbey Burger Bistro. I don't know if they switched beef providers or what, but I was in there a couple of weeks ago and the beef was tasteless. I couldn't tell the difference from any of the other sub par bar food burgers in the city. It was also overcooked. When the whole schtick is burgers, the cooks should be well-advised to pay attention to the difference between medium-rare and medium-well. I would much rather have a Five Guys burger that what I got at Abbey last time.

          I'll give them another shot, but if it's more mediocre food, I'll look elsewhere for my burgers.

          1. When I moved here in 2002, I went to Los Amigos and had some decent tacos and chile rellenos, but I haven't been back since sometime in 2007, when I had a truly bad meal--I don't even remember what I ordered. I think a lot of the menu is overpriced anyway for what it is, and there's better to be had, so I don't feel like I'm missing out. Too bad, though; it's a convenient location,

            1 Reply
            1. re: Clootie

              they have a new chef and a different menu, ate there a few months back and liked it.

            2. Some may disagree, but I think there is a big psychological factor that makes us experience a great, memorable restaurant outing, and makes later visits less memorable or special:

              You're at a place you've never been, with good company, and are tasting the food for the first time. The "newness" of the experience makes the food taste better. Subsequent visits don't capture the sense of happy discovery, and aren't as "special", so the restaurant seems to be "slipping".

              2 Replies
              1. re: placidothecat

                I can see your point and think that could be true in certain circumstances. However, with the Helmand, I loved the food every time I went there for years, except the last two times. I really think the quality of preparation has gone downhill. As for Salt, I think the innovation is still ongoing but the taste is lacking. You also have to throw in the human aspect of who happens to be cooking that night. The actual line chef who made my first great Hungarian goulash is probably long gone.

                1. re: tobynissly

                  Thanks -- I didn't really intend it as a blanket statement, but if I soul search, I find it is true for me in many cases. The first time I ate Pho, I felt like I had discovered the food of the gods! :) Subsequent Pho has never seemed as good to me, I blame my own perceptions -- though its tempting to blame the restaurants.

              2. I agree about Salt. Well, I can't claim they've slipped, since I only went there for my first time a couple days ago.

                Actually, I was really looking forward to trying Salt, and for my birthday my wife and in-laws took me there. The experience was incredibly bizarre, since the experience ranged from great to terrible. The appetizers were great. My foie gras and kobe beef slider was excellent, the duck fat fries with a trio of aioli was great, and the tuna tartare was really good too. So far so good.

                I ordered the veal porterhouse medium rare. It arrived raw. And almost too gristly to cut. When I finally was able to cut into it, I discovered how undercooked it was. I have never sent a dish back in my life, and I hate complaining at restaurants. But this was unacceptable so I called the waitress over to send it back, expecting her to offer to have the kitchen immediately re-make the dish or more generally to express her desire to make the situation right. Instead, she offered to put the same piece of meat back on and re-heat it. I was shocked that that was her suggestion. I'm no expert, but while that might be acceptable at home, when you are at a fine dining establishment that is charging $30 for an entre, that solution is completely unacceptable. And then when I refused that "solution" she (in short) rushed me into making a decision and got pissy when I objected to being rushed.

                The manager then came over and confirmed that routinely they re-heat already cooked and cooled meat when they undercook them, and said that it was her idea to rush me because the other members of my party already had their food. In my view, this was exactly the problem. The point is that nobody made any effort to actually re-make the dish or to assure me that they wanted to correct the mistake.

                In the meantime, my wife ordered the wahoo. She asked if it could be cooked at least to a medium temperature, but our waitress said the chef refused to cook the wahoo past medium rare. She went on to describe it was best prepared almost raw like sushi. Fine. But when it came out the fish was in fact well over cooked and very dry. We didn't bother to complain about that, since the veal situation was already so disappointing.

                I guess the upshot is that if you decide to go there, I'd recommend sticking to small plates/appetizers. They have a real problem with cooking meat or fish to the right temperature, and they are uninterested in fixing their mistakes properly. So beware.

                1 Reply
                1. re: john651

                  I've never been to Salt, but in reality I would totally expect and be perfectly comfortable with the same piece of meat being recooked. If it's overdone, well yeah, nothing can be done about it, but if it's under, I don't see what's so shocking about re-heating the same piece of meat. What if the customer was wrong in what they ordered and really wanted it medium instead of medium rare or something? The restaurant isn't going to throw away a porterhouse.

                  Obviously the right answer is to have every piece of protein cooked perfectly every time but it seems like the server and manager were so stunned at your demand for an entirely new piece of meat (you said you're no expert)m that it went downhill from there.