City Cafe: Baltimore, MD, USA
This is the first of a three-part series for restaurant week in Baltimore, MD. I can finally catch up now that final exams are over, and I have caught up on my sleep!
A quick heads up for you readers who aren’t sure of what restaurant week is. Basically it’s one week where participating restaurants in select cities do a “deal” and you do a fixe-prix (fixed price) menu for either lunch, dinner, or both. Normally for lunch it’s $20 with an appetizer and entree, and for dinner it’s about $30 for appetizer, entree, and dessert. The key to restaurant week is that it lets diners try really expensive restaurants for a minimal price. Needless to say, it is every foodie’s dream and what perfect way for Baltimore to welcome me than with a nice restaurant week one month into my move here.
City cafe: it’s a somewhat poshy restaurant-cafe that is located in my “neighborhood” of Mt. Vernon in Baltimore. Decor is quite nice, and luckily we had made reservations in advance because it’s quite popular on the weekends. Tip: Always make reservations at least 2-3 weeks in advance on Restaurant Week. This is especially true for big parties. Tip: Try to keep groups to a low minimum of 5-6 people. I would actually call the restaurant to find out if they automatically add tip for parties larger than 5. Usually for Restaurant Week, the service tends to fall because everyone is trying to make the most of this event.
The menu for Restaurant Week gave us the following options:
- Appetizers: tuna tartare, seared scallop, watermelon salad
- Entrees: pork chop, filet mignon, (some vegetarian option that I didn’t bother remembering)
- Dessert: coffee panna cotta, blueberry french toast, (something else I could not remember)
My friend miss P and I decided to share our appetizers, get the same entrees – the filet, and then share two desserts. She got the tuna tartare while I got the seared scallop, and she got the blueberry french toast with graham cracker ice-cream while I got the coffee panna cotta. Here we go with the quick rundown of the food:
Seared Scallop: one seared scallop in a tomato-based sauce
- well seared, not over cooked, not too fishy tasting
- sauce was very well done, a bit on the salty side, but went well with the scallop
- only one scallop. This was very hard to share!
Tuna Tartare: small scoop of tuna tartare
- very fresh, hearty chunks and not thinly minced – you know it’s sushi grade if they don’t bother to dice it super small
- not too much “dressing”, really allowed the flavor of the fish to come through
- could have used some salt or something to boost the flavor just a wee bit. I know it’s supposed to not be super flavorful, but the fish did not have that nice sushi tuna taste that I really enjoy. However, it was much better than the seared scallop in terms of quantity.
I did try a bite of my friend’s watermelon salad entree which was basically sweet watermelon cubes with goat cheese. It was by far the freshest thing that I have eaten, but I probably feel like you could replicate this dish yourself at home with some gourmet goat cheese from Whole Foods, and a ripe watermelon from…your local grocery store.
Filet Mignon: compared to the size of the pork chop that my other friends got, I would say that this was probably not really worth it. It wasn’t even melt-in-your mouth steak, and I bet that my friends could do a better job on a regular grill (I’m not even going to count my one friend who has been grilling on his BGE – Big Green Egg – all summer). After our second restaurant, Prime Rib, this was definitely not worth it.
- filet: good for beef/meat lovers
- decently done, I asked for medium and it came out almost medium-well
- sides of balsalmic (?) kale was amazing: did not taste like kale!
- sides of wild rice was okay: could be better infused with some mushroom sauce or something similar to that
- size compared to pork chop sucked
- my steak was over cooked: filet is really hard to do well. You have to have a great chef to get it just the right way as it was ordered as it is so tender.
Coffee Panna Cotta: I literally think they used expresso because the coffee flavor was super strong. Miss P said she couldn’t fall asleep until 3am because there was so much caffeine! (I can’t say the same as I passed out shortly after coming back from the lounge we went to after dinner).
- strong flavor of coffee
- moderately light, not too heavy but definitely creamy – not for those who are lactose intolerant!
- size is small as hell compared to the blueberry french toast 😦
- looks like turd. I know coffee is brown, but this literally looked like a mud-bucket that a 2-year-old had played with. For good restaurants, presentation is key so why the flop here?
Blueberry French Toast: three to four thick slices of blueberry french toast with powdered sugar and a side of graham cracker ice-cream.
- very large portion, definitely 3x as much as the panna cotta
- not too sweet or too heavy
- the graham cracker ice-cream was amazing.
- I like my french toast a bit thicker, as in texas toast style. This could just be my girl-from-the-south thing though.
My friend JH ordered off the regular menu and got the chicken pesto penne. This dish was amazing. It was so creamy and the pesto was just the right amount. I will definitely have to come back here for this, especially since the restaurant gave anyone who participated in restaurant week a $10 gift card!
All in all, a summary:
- tuna tartare: ***.75 (3.75 stars)
- seared scallop: *** (3 stars)
- filet mignon: *** (3 stars)
- coffee panna cotta: ***.75 (3.75 stars)
- blueberry french toast: **** (4 stars)
If you find yourself in Baltimore and wanted to check this place out, you can find them here:1001 Cathedral St, Baltimore, MD 21201
Until next time, bon apetit!