Friday, April 1, 2011

New Chef and New Season at B&O Brasserie!

by Xani

Sometimes, it's good to be a food blogger. In the past week, EP and I have been lucky enough to dine at two of Baltimore's best restaurants: Salt  (don't worry, post coming soon!) and B&O American Brasserie.  Now we've blogged about B&O before, but last night we were invited to try out the new B&O, with new Executive Chef Thomas Dunklin at the helm.  And, not to put too fine a point on it, the new menu ROCKS!
Check out that ink!
We were seated in the cozy upstairs dining room, and after a brief chat with Amy, who was responsible for this tasting (Thanks Amy!), the food and drink descended on us!  A loaf of house-baked brown bread arrived with two signature cocktails-- the Hobo's Cola and Bourbon (with house-made cola, an old favorite) and a new, gin and cucumber concoction that is apparently so popular at brunch, they're moving it to the regular cocktail menu.  It was refreshing and not too sweet.

Then, food rained down.  Our excellent waiter (who has served us before at B&O many moons ago-- love seeing familiar and friendly faces!) and the other staff members helpfully described each dish as it arrived, since Chef Dunklin decided what we would taste.

First course:
AHI TUNA CRUDO  citrus sponge / puffed rice / cucumber / cilantro
HAMACHI TARTARE red pepper broth / jalapeno / lime gremolata

Roasted Beet Carpaccio
goat cheese / avocado / pistachio / meyer lemon oil
What a great start!  The hamachi with red pepper broth was our favorite.  The fish was incredibly fresh tasting, and the pepper broth, lime and jalapeño set it off perfectly.

Soon enough, the next course arrived, including a big surprise; the dish we had been oohing and aaahing over, but which Amy told us probably wouldn't be included in the tasting, landed on the table, and it was unmistakable:
Butter Poached Oysters
chickpea spaghetti / sea urchin / quail egg
Apparently the staff had overheard us saying how much we wanted to try this dish, and Chef Dunklin made it so!  Now, EP and I are no strangers to oysters or uni (see our weird food tag for more), but this was a brand new preparation for us.  Previously, we had only had uni sushi, although I had heard of using it as an ingredient in other dishes (such as a rich, buttery pasta sauce) this was our first time tasting it prepared this way.  It was incredible.  If you are an uni fan at all, you will fall in love with this dish.  The oysters were plump and barely cooked, and the quail egg mixed into the dish and upped the richness factor yet another notch.  The chickpea pasta didn't taste much like chickpeas, but had a great al dente bite to it and was a perfect base for sauce (which we were scraping from the bowl).

As much as we loved the uni dish, the other plates in this course were no slouches, either. We tried the Venison Mortadella (pecorino waffle / watercress / pinot noir reduction) from the Charcuterie menu, as well as the Slow Roasted Pork Belly (saffron potato / pearl onion / chorizo / serrano chili glaze) small plate. Both were excellent! The belly was the best we had had in a while-- very tender and flavorful, and the potato base has unexpected spicy flavors. Rich, but oh so delicious. The venison mortadella was another hit-- lots of pistachios! It had even more flavor than a traditional mortadella, which I sometimes find a little bland and flabby. Plus, it (and their other charcuterie items) was made in-house! And serving it with a waffle?? Genius!

Venison mortadella and waffle
Pork Belly
By the next course we were already slowing down, our bellies reaching their limits. But we persevered!  There was more deliciousness to try...
Oxtail Ravioli
parsnip / ricotta / cherry jus / calamari
48 Hour Braised Pot Roast
cornbread gnocchi / swiss chard / mustard jus
Diver Sea Scallops
crab fried rice / radish / caramelized onion oil / crispy ginger
Three more tasty dishes.  As I mentioned, we were filling up, so we sadly left most of these plates unfinished, but they were all excellent.  The ravioli (actually from the small plate menu) were excellent, and the calamari on the side were crisp and not at all greasy.  The pot roast was OMG tender-- literally falling apart.  I guess that's what happens when you cook it for 48 hours!  And the scallops might have been my favorite of the entrees- HUGE, but SO sweet and not at all fishy.  And the crispy ginger on top-- a revelation!!

It wouldn't be a meal at B&O without a fabulous dessert course.  Now, EP and I hesitated for a moment when they brought out these:
Flourless Chocolate Cake  t
oasted meringue / graham cracker /
raspberry caramel 
Lemon Thyme Crème Brulee 
dehydrated blueberries / molasses shortbread
Not only were we now STUFFED, but flourless chocolate cake and creme brulee?  Meh, not our favorites.  But, of course we had to at least try....

All I can say is WOW.  These were some of the best examples of flourless chocolate cake and creme brulee we have ever tasted.  The chocolate cake was barely a cake, more like a dense, super-chocolate-y mousse-- so moist and delicious.  The toasted meringue on top was perfect to cut through the rich chocolate.  And the creme brulee!  First off, the very shallow, long dish it was served in gave it ideal (read: very high) crunchy top to creamy custard ratio.  The lemon thyme added an unusual note that kept it from tasting like every other brulee you've ever had, and the blueberries-- let's just say I want a never-ending supply of those for my morning cereal.

But there's more!  After the desserts came out, Chef Dunklin learned the name of our blog, and couldn't let us leave without letting us try the Red Velvet Donuts that are a crowd favorite off the new menu.  A little plate of them appeared and we found just enough room in our stuffed bellies for a little taste before we rolled ourselves out of there...

Red Velvet Donuts, cream cheese frosting

overexposed, hipstamatic pic of me enjoying donuts
Another amazing meal at B&O!  We heard Chef Dunklin (a native of NOLA (swoon) and recently from Portland) is really into local and sustainable eating, and will be taking full advantage of our local farmers' markets (BTW the big one opens this Sunday, Bmore peeps).  Love!  Welcome Chef Dunklin, can't wait to see what you'll come up with next!

Happy eating,


  1. Wow, I just can't stop scrolling through the pictures. Everything looks amazing.

  2. This is clearly an effort to break my food budget for the month. Yummy!

  3. I never realized how much you had to try at these tastings! Hope I can keep up with Erin in Paris!

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