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B&O American Brasserie -- excellent

JonParker Aug 7, 2010 02:39 AM

Courtney and I went to B&O Brasserie last night, taking the Circulator up (go Baltimore!) to be dropped pretty much at their front door. We had gone for lunch several months ago and been impressed, but the annoying (for us anyway) location was a major factor in not making it back until the Circulator made it simple and easy to get there and home without parking hassles.

While I was impressed on our lunch visit, last night we were blown away. This is very good, innovative food served in a cool contemporary setting. It's worth the trip, and we are anxious to return.

For appetizers we ordered the steak tartare, a two inch high cylinder which came on a bed of carpaccio. In my previous lunch review I had said that B&O did a magnificent job with this dish, and they do. But as good as it is, it paled in comparison to our second appetizer, the smoked pork belly. This is an amazing preparation-- rich and delicious. It now ranks among my favorite dishes anywhere.

For entrees, I had the crispy skin rockfish, and Courtney had the "surf and turf," -- serrano wrapped quail with a seared sea scallop. Both were excellent, but the highlight of the meal for both of us was the accompaniment to the rockfish -- an oxtail and avocado risotto. I joked that I was ordering a triple order of it to go, and honestly, I was tempted. It was outstanding.

We also foolishly got an order of duck fat fries on the side -- I say foolishly not because they were bad -- they were very good -- but because it was simply too much food. The only disappointment of the meal, and it's very minor, was the standard ketchup served with them. An aioli or an artisan ketchup would have been welcome. They didn't really need a sauce though -- they were hot, thin and crispy.

For dessert we had a cherry upside down cake that came with ice cream and caramel popcorn -- another very good dish.

The final verdict is that while I expected B&O to be reasonably good, I did not expect to be wowed like I was. This is very good food in an unlikely setting. Hotel restaurants are not generally known for being great. B&O is now on my list of favorite Baltimore restaurants, and while there may be some future menu exploration during those visits one thing is for sure. One of us will be ordering the risotto.

  1. Dennis S Aug 7, 2010 03:43 AM

    Thanks for the detailed post. I'll be up there again for a few nights early next month. I'd gone there on the last trip in April, but only after a meal with the coworkers who couldn't be swayed to go there (until the next day at lunch when the wait was an hour and everyone bailed). Which brings me to a question:

    When I went there solo, it was night, but not that late (8:30ish) and it was dead. Go there the next day for lunch (a Wednesday) and it's packed with an hour wait. Is that downtown B-More in general, just that place, or an oddity I happened across?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Dennis S
      JonParker Aug 7, 2010 05:48 AM

      Well downtown Baltimore definitely does a bigger lunch business than dinner, like most downtowns. Opentable offered us a 7:45 reservation, but we showed up at least 20 minutes in advance of our reservation and were seated immediately. And by the time we finished dinner, there were lots of open tables.

      That said, lunch there is good, but dinner was great. The place deserves to be packed every night judging from our meal. They seem to be doing a good if not spectacular business, which is a shame. This is really tasty food.

      1. re: JonParker
        kukubura Aug 7, 2010 06:05 AM

        Nice write-up. Yeah, that place is elevating things, I think. One of their cheaper items is the market flatbread pizza, but it is soooo good. With fresh produce and a fried egg... I want one right now.

        Also, you didn't review the drinks, although you mentioned them in another thread. This is the rare place that's putting as much thought into the bar as into the food. Terrific.

        1. re: kukubura
          Dennis S Aug 7, 2010 06:16 AM

          I agree on the drinks. Like I said, I went around 9pm. Sat at the bar. The bartender was great. I gave him the order of a gin martini with a 5-2 ratio and he delivered possibly the best I've ever had - even including my own making.

          1. re: Dennis S
            JonParker Aug 7, 2010 07:36 AM

            I'm on a hiatus from alcohol right now, so all I had was a sip or two of Courtney's. But we were just discussing that -- The Platform was a fabulous drink. I'll be sure to check out the martini at some point -- I do love a good one, and a place that stocks Plymouth gin is ok in my book.

    2. f
      FoiGras Aug 7, 2010 09:10 AM

      JonParker--thank you for your comprehensive review. This weekend hubby and I were debating where to dine--i.e., B&O, Alizee or Woodberry Kitchen. I was perhaps more interested in the Brasserie as I am champing at the bit to try pork belly. My husband's primary concern was the parking situation.

      Please excuse my ignorance, but what is the Circulator? Where exactly did you guys park?

      I am not certain if we are intending to go there tonight or tomorrow night. It all depends on how our day shakes out. I suspect that it'll be quite "dead" on a Sunday night. And, generally, we are "early bird" diners--about 5:30 or 6p.m., which would make it most certain that the restaurant would be quite sparsely populated.

      Thanks for any help with regards to the parking situation. FoiGras

      -----
      Woodberry Kitchen
      2010 Clipper Park Rd # 126, Baltimore, MD

      4 Replies
      1. re: FoiGras
        kukubura Aug 7, 2010 09:48 AM

        Not trying to discourage you from riding the circulator but B&O has valet parking for $5 (plus a tip, of course), which sure makes life a lot easier! Just roll up to the front door, hand the nice man your keys, and for less than the price of parking in an open air drug market up the street in Mt Vernon you can get on with your meal!

        1. re: FoiGras
          Dennis S Aug 7, 2010 09:50 AM

          Limited help here: The circulator is a short route but fairly clean bus. DC also has one. I don't know routes.

          The Sheraton a block away has decent parking and I believe decent rates. It was April that we were based there for a business event.

          1. re: FoiGras
            a
            amaebi Aug 7, 2010 09:59 AM

            There is street parking on Charles St. one block south of the restaurant on the east side of Charles. Also there is street parking on Baltimore St. btwn Charles and St. Paul (just around the corner fr. the B&O). I am pretty sure that after 6pm in both places you don't have to feed the meter. I have never had a problem finding parking within a block of the place so please don't let that deter you fr. one of the best dining experiences in the city. I've been several times and have had wonderful meals there. We need to support this chef so that more innovative chefs move into Baltimore and open places like this.

            1. re: amaebi
              JonParker Aug 7, 2010 03:52 PM

              Yeah, I live in Federal Hill, so the Circulator (a free bus service that runs through the major business districts of Baltimore) is an easy option. We didn't park -- Courtney left her car at my place and we walked a block to catch the Circulator. If I was coming from the suburbs it would be a different story. In any event this is an excellent restaurant and well worth your patronage, parking or no.

              You can see the Circulator routes at http://www.charmcitycirculator.com/

          2. ko1 Aug 11, 2010 12:25 PM

            Jane and I have been a couple of times and really like it as well. Pork garnish with seafood seems to be one of this year's trends but their chef has an expert hand with it. The mixed drink menu is great, and they can also make pretty much any classic cocktail. Try the Sazerac.
            Last week, they had a Crab Bash for charity: 8 stations with 8 different chefs from up and down the East Coast offering crab small plates. All this and a cocktail for $10 and then you got to vote for your favorites. A great deal and a great time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ko1
              kukubura Aug 12, 2010 04:09 PM

              I was at that! It was awesome. Although I question some of the judging but overall a super-fun event and most oft he dishes were terrific.

              Btw, there's a cool piece on B&O and a couple of other of our better restaurants in today's Urbanite food zine, specifically about some interesting summer dishes: http://tinyurl.com/2f67ekq

            2. n
              nyawira Aug 11, 2010 01:33 PM

              Thanks much. We have not been there, but that will now be at the top of our list for our next date night.

              1. j
                jvanderh Aug 11, 2010 01:40 PM

                Sounds really good. Thanks for the review. I agree that the circulator from Federal Hill is wonderful. Being able to drink as much as you want and not having to keep track of the car makes for a very relaxing evening.

                1. c
                  chefdilettante Aug 11, 2010 03:34 PM

                  I do like this restaurant but every time I go, I'm disappointed by the wine list. It's an unimaginative collection of easy-to-find (and often lackluster) wines. And overpriced at that. I wish that they'd come up with a wine list that was up to par with the food, especially given the quality of the cocktails.

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