22 July 2010

Birfday Shenanigans Pt. 2

For my birthday dinner I decided to take a shot in the dark and try out the B&O American Brasserie in Hotel Monaco on North Charles Street.

It was fairly empty when we arrived at 7:30, with most patrons sitting at the bar. Two of my friends were already here enjoying happy hour so they settled up their tab and we were all lead upstairs to the first table on the left.

Upon opening both the food and beverage menu I was immediately disappointed. Apparently the menu on their website wasn't up to date. Many of the items I was interested in trying were no longer on the menu, including the entree I had my eye on. Well damn. A bad way to start the meal. I sampled both of the pale ales they had on tap, but ultimately decided to try their B&O Manhattan instead.

I expected I would like it as I'm definitely a bourbon fan and appreciated how they sweetened it with maple syrup. I was hoping to pick up more of the smokiness from the bourbon to pair well with my most anticipated dish of the meal, the fried pork belly. Garnished with skewered cherries it was a good start to the meal.

The complimentary bread was a tad small for a table of 5 and took some effort to pull apart. The whipped butter was topped with some sort of green sea salt which paired nicely with the bread. As you can guess I started my meal with the Smoked Pork Belly with banana-lentil salad, crispy pig ear, & chili-caramel.

This was one of the best starters that I've had in Baltimore.  It's right up there with the Kaddo Bourani from The Helmand.  The belly was smoky and caramelized fatty goodness that melted in my mouth and the pig's ear added a nice crispy salty crunch.  The sweetness from the bananas and the chili-caramel rounded it all out.  Hells to the yes this is what I'm talking about.  Too bad this was the highlight of the meal.  My dining companions ordered a plethora of other dishes.

I felt the Steak Tartare & Carpaccio with pickled carrots and dressed mizuna greens was overpowered by the bitterness of the greens.

The flavors of the Smoked Crab Flatbread with grilled corn and cilantro were a little muddled to me.  It just tasted like crab dip with corn and tomatoes.  My second bite had an extremely overwhelming fishy taste and I had to resist the urge to spit it back out onto my plate.

The Chilled Tomato-Watermelon Soup with melon tartar was wonderful.  As you can see, I neglected to get a photo of it until it made it's way to my side of the table.  Growing up you would've had to force feed it to me as I hated both watermelon and tomato, but my palette has matured and this flavor combination really worked.  The soup had a subtle heat to it, and we found ourselves fighting over the last spoonful.  I wish I had a big bowl of it in front of me right now...

After tasting my dining companions' beverage my second round of the night was the Hobo's Bourbon & Cola which featured Bulleit bourbon and housemade cola.

I haven't had very much luck with housemade sodas in the past (I'm looking at you Jack's Bistro) but B&O's cola only served to accentuate the flavors of the bourbon and, while some could say this drink was one-note, the bourbon was the star and I heartily recommend this drink to any bourbon lover.  This cocktail most certainly trumped the Manhattan.

For my entree I went with the Braisde Veal Cheek Skillet with sous vide potato, mache greens, and creamed corn and a half-sized portion of the Smoked Corn and Basil Ricotta Ravioli with chorizo, favas, and heirloom carrots.  GD could that name be any longer?

The veal cheeks were tender, reminiscent of pot roast, but lacked any strong vealy flavor.  The star of the dish was the creamed corn, I would've happily downed a bowl of it.  The potatoes had a nice firm texture and the greens lightened up the otherwise heavy flavors going on in the dish.  The Ravioli ultimately didn't work for me either.  

The chorizo tasted like it was seasoned with the powder packet from an Old El Paso Taco Dinner Kit, and the favas, heirloom carrots, etc. could've been the bagged frozen mixed vegetables my mom used to serve us growing up.  The funny thing is all of those negatives kind of struck a reminiscent chord with me, as we used to get those taco kits all the time too.  I don't remember any thoughts I may have had about the corn & ricotta filling, but I do recall enjoying the toothsomeness of the freshly made pasta.  As you probably expect from me, I had to try every entree on the table.

Mrs. Micro's Ricotta Gnocchi with squash blossoms, braised lettuce, and arugula pesto was a tad unbalanced by all of the green flavors competing for dominance of the dish.

The Hangar Steak Frites was, as expected, the pure essence of beefy flavor.  What an underappreciated cut of meat.  It's delicious.  And the duck fat fries, as I expected, failed to impress. 

Another friend ordered the only entree I tried that I would've gone back for: a Surf-N-Turf featuring Bacon-Wrapped Quail and Seared Scallop with pea puree and cherry jam.  While I didn't sample the scallop (she was only given one and she guarded it with her life, but she did say it was perfectly seared), the puree, or the jam, the quail was wonderfully smoky and subtly sweet.  A similar flavor profile to the pork belly.  It made my veal cheek look like a sad, sad plate of food.  She did get a few bones in her quail, but she happily gnawed the meat off of the bones.
Prior to ordering dessert I excused myself from the table to use the restroom.  Two flights of stairs and a long cavernous hallway later and I was finally able to relieve myself.  While it was nice to see the hotel side, which used to be the central hub of the B&O railroad, this was by far the longest I've had to travel in a restaurant to use the facilities.  And unfortunately this review doesn't get any better from here as the dessert was my least favorite course of the meal. 
TOOOO SWEET.  Yep, that about sums it up.  God, if I could turn back time and do this meal over again I would've burned my dessert menu, clawed out my eyes, and stapled my mouth shut.  What a horrible, horrible decision.  So the five of us decided to order a different dessert each and then pass them around the table.  I just realized that I didn't take a photo of the menu so I will have to do this from memory. 

The lemon bars and the butterscotch tart were entirely too sweet for me.  Bonus points were awarded to the tart for being so gosh darn pretty however.  The blueberries and the blueberry sorbet that came with the lemon bars were great, but the bars themselves were lightly caramelized sugar bombs. 
The creme brulee was good, my friend who ordered it said it would be the benchmark to which all other creme brulees would be compared, so maybe I'm just not that impressed with creme brulee. 
The dessert featuring a sweet corn cake, corn ice cream, and caramel popcorn was by far my favorite.  The damning thing is that when I asked our waitress for her opinion on it, she said it was too sweet for her... I guess she hasn't tried the tart or the bars.  She needs to lay off the crack pipe.  Anyway, I loved the play on textures, the cake tasted like a heavenly sweet moist cornbread.  Next time I have a bowl of ice cream I'm going to trop it with caramel corn.  Genious.

I ordered some banana split thing (which was on the house since it was my birthday... yay) with chocolate and strawberry ice cream which was obviously not very memorable since I can barely remember eating it.  The dessert course ruined my night.  The amount of sugar I consumed at the end of the meal wreaked havok on my stomach and I spent the ride home practically doubled over in agony.  Not a fun way to conclude my birthday.  Not at all.
If, and that's a big if, I were ever to return to B&O for dinner my order would be simple: A Hobo's Bourbon and Cola and the Tomato-Watermelon Soup to start followed by an entree portion of the pork belly.  And I would most certainly be skipping dessert.  Unfortunately, this dinner didn't come close to last year's feast at the Helmand and hijinks at Dionysus.
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theminx said...

I love that you're so honest with your appraisals of food. You calls 'em likes you tastes 'em.

Mr. Micro said...

You're GD right I do. Who am I pulling punches for? I had a hard time deciding between B&O and Woodberry. If I could do it again I would've gone to Woodberry. Ah well, chalk it up to life experience I guess.

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