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Baltimore: new Carlyle Club Lebanese--first report

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Restaurants & Bars

Baltimore: new Carlyle Club Lebanese--first report

Eclectivore | Aug 17, 2002 12:32 PM

The Carlyle Club Lebanese opened in the space formerly occupied by Preston's 500 on Thursday, 15 August. We visited it on the second night open, so all conclusions from our experiences should be tentative as they get through their shake-down stage. There is still no sign out front, and in fact the glass case next to the door still had Preston's menu in it. We were cordially greeted, and the service was good, except for the fact that the waiters still have not seen or tasted all items on the menu so cannot describe them fully. As we sat down, they placed on the table a basket of pita bread, a bowl of marinated vegetables, and another bowl with olives, peppers, and lemon slices. We never did figure out what the lemon or peppers were for; the green and black olives were good, and the peppers were rather piquant (maybe 20,000 Scofield units?) The marinated vegetables were baby eggplant with garlic, which was delicious and with enough garlic to clear Transylvania; turnips, which were cut too thick and undermarinated, but very fresh; and cauliflower. We first tried four appetizers: a cold, steamed artichoke was well cooked, but a bit under-flavored. The babaganouj was too smokey-flavored. This dish is classically prepared by roasting the eggplants in their skins, which imparts a slightly smokey flavor, but this item was overwhelming. Our opinion was that it was achieved with a Liquid Smoke-type product, and way too much of it. A mixed salad was quite good, mostly mesclun greens, with a light dressing incorporating most of the basic flavors of Middle Eastern cooking: garlic, olive oil, lemon, and mint. The best appetizer was called a spinach pie: in reality two rolls shaped like tamales, but of several layers of phyllo, stuffed with a spankopita-like mixture of spinach, feta, onions, and pignoli, deepfried. It was very good. One main course was kefta kebab, which was good but not very much better that you can get at other places. It was accompanied with a grilled onion, a sauteed shredded onion, and a strip of potato. The other main course we had was not anything we would consider typically Lebanese: sesame-crusted tuna steak in a light sauce whose major component was soy sauce. It was perfectly prepared and very good. The wine list has about a dozen each red and white wines, at prices ranging from $5 to $7 a glass, and bottles from $25 to 40. (One recommendation we would have would be to add a few Greek and Provencal rose wines to the list, for these go well with such food.) There are currently about 10 starter items, ranging from about $4 to $10, and about 10 main courses, ranging from about $12 to $20. There is now only one dessert on offer, baklava, which was decent. Despite rumors that one of the chefs is Moroccan, there was no sign of that cuisine on the menu. Now if they can only do enough advertising to bring in the people and stay in business, something Prestons, alas, did not manage to do. We will definitely go back, and look forward to them expanding their menu.

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