We stopped by the new Test Kitchen in Federal Hill last night, at the site of the old Junior's Wine Bar / Vespa. They plan to relaunch under the name Il Corvino at some point, but they've been open regularly for at least the last month under the name Test Kitchen, supposedly trying out menu items. It's not like a soft opening, because they're completely open, keeping regular hours and available to the public.
We were given a short menu of small plates, which seems to be their focus. I didn't get all the ingredients because I was too preoccupied staring at my girlfriend, but I can give you a general idea.
We had two seafood dishes. Our fried oysters looked perfect, but didn't get out from the kitchen in time to be truly great -- they were merely lukewarm by the time we got them. Grilled octopus was better, served with a small amount of veggie underneath -- bok choi maybe? It was hard to tell. The octopus was perfectly grilled though -- they hit the sweet spot between undercooked and chewy.
A risotto with king trumpet mushrooms was merely ok. The rice was perfect with lots of big chunks of mushroom. The problem with it was an overdose of truffle oil, which made the first two or three bites very tasty but grew old and overwhelming by the end.
A mac and cheese with pork was the best dish of the evening. The menu calls is "mac and cheese" with quotes, but it's pretty much just a mac and cheese. Very good though.
And I'm still not totally sure what the Test Kitchen business is all about, since they didn't really seem to be soliciting feedback on the food other than the standard "is everything ok?" from our waitress. I gave her some feedback when we left, but it wasn't like we were really asked for it.
Hopefully they'll add some menu items before the relaunch. I'd especially like to see some Juniors/Vespa type pizzas make a reappearance -- those were always the best menu items at both of those restaurants.