First, thanks to all the 'hounds for the recs. We were thinking Saffron, Mezze and Birches, finally settling on the last of the three.
Starting with the service, they were incredibly nice and accomodating. We made the horrific decision to try this restaurant on the first day of the Fell's Point Festival. We ended up being 30 minutes late for our reservation for lack of parking (we ended up parking at the Can Company and walking). We updated them about every 15 minutes and they assured us that it was no problem and they would hold our table. Once we finally arrived, we were seated immediately. Great start.
The server commiserated with us on the parking (he himself had spent 40 minutes looking for parking)and immediately suggested a cocktail to "take the edge off". We ordered and then turned our attention to the menus.
We were immediately put at ease by the atmosphere. It was relaxed and welcoming and whoo-whee...were the patrons in a good mood! There were good, hearty, belly laughs coming from every direction. At first it was a little odd, but soon became contagious.
Hubby ordered off the specials menu...littleneck clams with chorizo, green onion and cilantro for an appetizer, a veal chop stuffed with goat cheese served on a sun-dried tomato and spinach risotto with ruby port reduction. I ordered the fried artichoke hearts and their "autumn folly", shrimp, scallops and backfin served on garlic spinach with warm asparagus and beefsteak tomato salad.
The clams were out of this world. The broth was so rich and flavorful that with a loaf of bread, it could have been dinner. Hubby lamented the fact that he didn't have a spoon and couldn't figure out how to slurp out of the soup plate. My artichokes were good, though they could have used some salt and lemon. As a side note, a little dish of fleur de sel would have been great on the table. The dipping sauce was interesting (mayo based, but beyond that I have no idea what was in it). Next to the clams, though, my chokes were definitely the bridesmaid.
As fabulous as the veal chop sounded, it missed the mark. The chop itself was good, as was the goat cheese. The big dissapointment was the risotto. The rice was overdone and we both had the same initial reaction...it tasted like pizza. The tomato flavor was overpowering and it even had chunks of what appeared to be mozzarella cheese in it. I think that fresh tomato would have been far superior and more delicate than sun-dried.
My dish was the sleeper hit. I don't usually order seafood combos, but the dish was light and fresh and just perfect. The asparagus was crisp-tender and the tomatoes flavorful. The seafood was perfectly prepared and just delicious.
The star of the meal was dessert...a chocolate souffle with Wild Turkey caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. All I can say is Oh..my...GAWD!! We cleaned the plate.
Thanks to a limited, but reasonable wine list, our dinner wasn't outrageous. They even treated us to the dessert for our trouble finding parking. We had a great time there and will definitely go back.
Thanks again, 'hounds!! Great pick!!