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Restaurants & Bars 3

Pazo (long)

crackers | Mar 1, 2005 05:19 PM

Since I haven't read very much on the board about Pazo, I thought I would share several recent experiences and hope that others will chime in with their opinions.

First, it still can be difficult to get a reservation, at least on the weekends - and they do the whole velvet cord and bouncer-with-headset routine at the door. Still there is a very long bar and also a terrific lounge area if you are not set on sitting at a table. Also, if you come over from Charleston for drinks and/or dancing, they seem willing to help facilitate a reservation if you ask. If you show up early, like 5pm, you should not have any problem, even on Saturday.

The interior is unique in Baltimore - a converted warehouse space done in baroque/vaguely Spanish/Moorish decor, with giant clay amphoras separating the lounge area from the raised dining/dance floor. Lots of wrought iron with some Pottery Barn type fixtures. The kitchen is open and visible from most spots on the floor. There is also a mezzanine balcony area with additional seating that allows a good view of the whole space, and is quieter.

Ordering from the entire menu on sofas in the lounge is allowed - and with large cocktail tables to put everything on this is not a problem.

The menu is divided into seafood, meat and vegetable tapas. Vegetarians should ask first - the fantastic marinated beets come with a goodly toss of pancetta. There are also grilled breads, pizzas and cheeses. The website is not up to date - many dishes don't appear on it or are significantly different. The wines by the glass are quite limited and corkage is not allowed we were told on one visit, and on another were told "only for special occasions."

Service is efficient and friendly - but once the place is packed and people start coming later in the evening for dessert and dancing, the staff are practically running to get orders filled, and the tapas can start arriving out of sync - too soon, too late. My advice would be to order as you go rather than all at once in the beginning of the meal, despite their assurances to the contrary.

The small container of flat breads sets the western Mediterranean theme - with olive oil and mild chili oil for dipping. Some of the better tapas are the perfectly grilled prawns, chorizo and roast potatoes,fat and juicy grilled sardines, tender grilled calamari (whole tubes stuffed with julienne of green apple, shrimp with garlic, tomato, and plenty of chili pepper for kick, and grilled lambchops - two fairly thin but full-flavored medium rare chops to a plate. And the beets with pancetta are marinated in orange vinaigrette. If you like beets, you will love these. The pappa fritta, ripple potato chips, are very good and the generous order of whole wheat peasant bread is perfect for sopping up juices and oils and spreading cheese on.

The roasted pork ribs which the waiter recommended are just so-so. Two garlicy ribs, nothing outstanding. The pappardelle with pork ragu is one dish that went back. It arrived right after several other dishes so I don't know if it arrived al dente, but by the time we went to dig in, it was a cool congealed mound with a few flecks of shredded pork. The second try was better but still a bit overcooked, and still light on the ragu. They do a good job with grilling - grilled mushrooms on greens (arugula?) are pungent and quite salty. The selection of cheeses is also worth the tummy space - the valdeon works well with the toast it comes with. For desserts there are a forgettable creme catalan (brulee) and a good chocolate torte and a fruit tart du jour. The sorbets are also quite good.

The music starts to crank up around 10:00pm and as tables are vacated downstairs the floor is cleared for dancing and the dj takes over. They continue to serve tapas until 1:00 a.m. in the loung though and it's open until 2:00 am, so you can sit or dance to use up the energy from eating all those wonderful tapas.
And your wallet won't be signifiantly lighter either - prices are very reasonable.

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