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Pabu

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So I'm thinking about going to Baltimore for the Christmas Market and no restaurant is exciting me in Inner Harbor. I've heard good things about Pabu but the menu looks really expensive for what it is (izakaya and sushi). Any recommendation for what to get there or somewhere else to eat? Wit & Wisdom didn't look all that exciting either and I've been to Charleston awhile back and it's all booked for this Saturday. I like seafood and Italian (especially sea urchin pasta or clams). Will eat anything, especially if it's better than what I can get in DC.

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  1. Cinghiale is outstanding Italian, in Inner Harbor East near Pabu/W&W/Four Seasons.Part of the Foreman/Wolf empire like Charleston, similarly excellent, esp. wine list.

    4 Replies
    1. re: fellspt

      I'll agree with the wine list being excellent but in terms of the food, I feel that it's just alright. Nothing in there blew me away any of the half dozen times I've eaten and I find the non-bar areas of the restaurant a bit stuffy. It's also quite expensive for what you get.

      I like Pabu a lot (probably my favorite place in town) and I've eaten pretty much everything on the menu. Not to be missed are the Okonomiyaki, lotus root, tiny eggplants, chicken meatball, and the toro. Last time we were there they had a special scallop roll that was incredible.

      I've also had great meals at Verde and Fork & Wrench recently. You can go the other way and go BYOB at Mekong Delta, which is excellent.

      1. re: hotel

        What are your thoughts on the following dishs (which look interesting to me):

        "happy spoon" oyster, uni, ikura, tobiko, ponzu crème fraîche

        michael's "chicken noodle" ramen, rich chicken broth, soy-poached chicken

        piedmont ridge dry-aged ribcap, spicy red miso

        The okonomiyaki looks good and I'll probably try that.

        What's on the robata platter? Can you choose or do they choose for you?

        1. re: Worldwide Diner

          I've had the Happy Spoon before and it was delicious - Although all of the elements were amazing by themselves...If they have the Oysters with ponzu, definitely get that and I agree that the Toro and Eggplants are not to be missed...

          If you like Sake, the list here is about a diverse as you will find outside of Japan - This is where the servers here either shine or don't, depending on their knowledge of the list. Try to go with some of the smaller bottles to have some diversity, I think we went through 7 courses of Sake last time.

          It's not as expensive as Charleston - Went there on Saturday and it was very good...

          1. re: Worldwide Diner

            Basically everything is solid to excellent. My wife thinks the happy spoon can be a bit overwhelming if you aren't a huge fan of sea urchin. That being said, I think it's pretty excellent. I do agree with tommyskitchen in that the oysters with ponzu are excellent. Robata platter varies by day but it's a selection of skewered and grilled meats. They do actually bring in Japanese white oak and everything is very good. You may smell a bit like a BBQ when you leave.

            I can see how people think it's an izakaya on steroids, but at the same time I've gone to yakitori places in Tokyo that were total dives and spent far more money than I have at Pabu on several occasions. Yes it's not cheap, but it's definitely one of the most unique and best restaurant experiences in Baltimore currently. We recently ate at Daikaya in DC, an izakaya not on steroids. Spent exactly the same amount of money but the quality was just not the same as Pabu. It's also a very nice space here in Harbor East. When the construction on the promenade outside is finished, the view will once again be incredible.

            I should also expand on tommyskitchen's note about the sake. They have one of the best sake sommeliers in the entire country curating the list. Ask for her to help you, her name is Tiffany, she is fantastic.

            I don't think I've ever spent more than 150 on two people in Pabu, btw.

      2. "So I'm thinking about going to Baltimore for the Christmas Market and no restaurant is exciting me in Inner Harbor.

        I have to agree here. Pabu to me is "Izakaya on steroid" on par with most of Mina's restaurants and does not excite me much. I will say that I have enjoyed Cinghiale's wine, cheese, charcuteries and selcted appetizers but their uniformly poor pasta preparations after several tries limit me to their bar only. Mekong Delta may be one of the best Thai in Baltimore but quite below average if you compare with NOVA or NYC selections.

        A few places that I am looking to dine out in Baltimore are Bottega (recently opened BYOB in North Charles) and Fork & Wrench.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kurtis

          Are we talking about the same Mekong Delta? It is Vietnamese and pretty much the only Viet available in these parts.

          Some other downtown/nearby suggestions: Bluegrass Tavern for diverse New American; Sotto Sopra for Italian; Hersh's for great cocktails and excellent pizza.

          1. re: lawhound

            My bad, lawhound. I have not been to Mekong Delta and am looking forward to it. I meant to make comment on most of the Thai places in and around Baltimore.

        2. I prefer Cinghiali to Charleston!

          and Kurtis is right - Mekong Delta's not Thai - it's Vietnamese & solid...

          but I do not agree with the Sotta Sopra recommendation. It is a "be sure to miss" in my book - expensive, bland, and boring. Hersh's was a little better - but still not worth seeking out, in my opinion.

          I have not been to Pabu, but look forward to that day...

          For seafood in Baltimore, I would probably go downscale & get a good crabcake, or oysters or mussels... Or maybe a good piece of fish at Peter's Inn in Fells Point?

          1 Reply
          1. re: foster

            Reasonable minds can differ about Sotto Sopra. It's not at Cinghiale's level, but in my experience (the last of which was about a year ago), the food is always good to very good, and the winr list is excellent. I agree it's expensive.

            If not SS, what would you say are the top 4 or 5 Italian places in Baltimore?

          2. I loved Pabu but thought it was WAY overpriced. So if "what you get for your $" doesn't bother you, it's a good choice, but if you get annoyed paying ridiculous prices, then stay away.
            Have you ever been to Tio Pepes? There are strong feelings in both directions about it on this board, but I really love it. The menu always has an extensive list of fresh fish, and it's a fun place-- and very different from any place I've been to in DC. I love the shrimp and garlic appetizers and have had fabulous sea bass and swordfish entrees. It's a classic Baltimore place, located in a cozy basement in mid-town.

            1. I'm in Baltimore but not sticking around for dinner because Pier 5 is sold out. I have a small dog and I want to be with in walking distance of Pabu on this cold day. It is snowing as I drink gluhwine at the Xmas market.