Since there seems to be a dearth of Baltimore postings in the last few days, I thought I'd post this quick report on the Purple Orchid. A bunch of us went there over the holiday weekend.
First, some background. The Purple Orchid is a French-Vietnamese restaurant that moved from 419 N. Charles to its present location on Pratt St., on the ground floor of the Scarlett Place condominium, a few years ago. Evidently, it was one of the first Baltimore "fusion" places, and the chef likes to call his style "semi-veritical." The Purple Orchid also added a sushi bar in the last year or so.
The results? Here's the quick rundown.
Decor: nice decor. Tables not too close together. Large sushi bar in the front of the room; smallish dining room in the back. Several tables were occupied, so the restaurant looked pretty busy.
Sushi: in a word, don't. Lots better sushi even in Baltimore. We got the sushi platter and a couple of nigiri.
Appetizers. I wasn't that impressed. A couple of people had escargot and they really liked them; I thought they were a bit too salty. Another person got a seafood dumpling soup in a clear broth (served ina hollowed-out squash), I wouldn't recommend this either as the broth was pretty bland the dumplings mediocre. The gyoza and shumai are both store bought. However, four appetizers were big hits: the cream of crab soup; a bisque of several differnt kind of mushrooms; a baked portobello mushroom stuffed with jumbo lump, and the salad.
After all of this, I was feeling a bit trepeditious of the rest of the meal, but I am pleased to say that (unlike most restaurants I have been to), the entrees were much much better than the appetizers. Nothing, from steak to venison to fish to buffalo, was over- or under-cooked. Particularly good were the Canard Bigarrade, a boned duck done Peking-style, and the steak Diane. We had two fish dishes that were perfectly cooked; one which was a flouder battered in egg and served with citrus and almonds, and the other a rockfish. The crab cakes were reported to be excellent as well. We also got several of the FIVE specials, including venison and buffalo. Not only were there a good variety of flavours in each dish, but in the dishes I tried, each had had a small amount of an additional ingredient about which we kept saying, "What's the taste in there--it's really good."
Perhaps more importantly, there was almost no food left for people to take home.
Also, the presentation of the dishes were fantastic.
In short, I'd recommend it (as well as the rest of our group). Be a little picky on the appetizers, but I don't think you can go wrong on the entrees. Also, I've heard that they have a lot of regulars so they don't change the menu that much--I guess that means what they do, they do very well.