Thursday, April 05, 2007


Every once in a while, you run into a place that just has a cool name and you just have to check it out.

This past Saturday, Coffee Bryan and myself were driving around Baltimore trying to eat French for lunch. As Baltimore would have it, this proved impossible at both Petit Louis and Brasserie Tatin. However, the people at Tatin pointed us in the direction of the Indian buffet at the Ambassador Hotel. Now, I'm sorry, but Indian buffet for under ten bucks does not sound appetizing to me. Food sitting out in the open, barely warm, hovering in the bacterial danger zone is unappetizing at best and I try to avoid any kind of buffet at all costs.

Ixnay on the Indian oodfay.

As we're driving by the Ambassador, we spy a sign reading "Chocolatea" on the ground floor. Gosh, that SOUNDS interesting, let's check it out. In a moments' flash, the car is parked and we're hustling for the door.

Now, what do you see in your minds' eye when you hear the word "Chocolatea"? I envision a specialty boutique of handmade chocolates and the finest teas - the "it" stop and the "end all, be all" of chocolate and tea, right?

In a word, Chocolatea is: schizophrenic.

Everything about the place is just, well, schizo. Nothing seems to make sense. From the Dasani refrigerated case filled with Coke to the IKEA furniture to the remnant couch to the crazy contrasting wall colors to the un-unified assortment of teas to the small case of chocolate truffles that seems like an afterthought to the absolutely crazy and left-field menu ranging from waffles and pancakes to udon noodles and rice bowls.

Now, I'm a hardcore rice guy and when rice presents itself in Baltimore, I'm all over it. Ditto for ahi tuna. So while Coffee Bryan was busy ording pancakes and the chicken udon bowl, I made do with the spicy tuna and the chicken rice bowl - and a bag of Doritos.

How was the food?

Kinda blah, to be honest.

Note to entrepreneurs: if you must do something, narrow it down and do it well. Using pre-cooked, frozen chicken from a bag in your dishes is inexcusable. And, if you're going to pass off the dishes as Japanese in origin, at least know what condiments are typically served with the dishes. Ichimi Togarashi is de rigeur with any sort of donburi bowl.

The tuna was raw and pretty good on its' own but the hot sauce was unremarkable and did nothing for the tuna, though the prepared seaweed salad was tasty, if store bought.

For a drink, I ordered the Lemonade Iced Tea expecting a place called Chocolatea to make killer tea drinks. This one was overpowered with lemon juice and no balance whatsoever with the tea. Coffee Bryan's Chocolatea signature beverage was filled with chocolate floaters that, evidently, were to give texture but were not to his liking.

It's unfortunate. What started out with high hopes led only to disappointment. We love the name, I just hope the owners bring the concept into some sort of focus instead of the schizophrenic menu that's all over the place trying to do many things and succeeding at none of them.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, it doesn't seem like this place is very high end, so I wouldn't so quickly assume it'd be great. You walked in expecting a little too much, and when you didn't get what you were looking for you were more disappointed than if you walked in with a mediocre mood. Perhaps it's just a personal liking place, and they try to cover everything so people of different cultures could go and eat there.
Ahh well, still sounds like a place I'd like to try, and most likly will try something you didn't to really see if none of them are successful at being tasteful.

gerberdais said...

This place is one of my favorite cafe haunts. The food is head and shoulders above MOST of the coffee joints in the neighborhood. The paninis are all excellent (good quality bread, not greasy), the dumplings are quite good (the dipping sauce is delectable), and the wraps are Asian-inspired and unbelievable. The Japanese is not made in-house or authentic, but they're a good option if you want something lo-fat, lo-cal and just clean.Don't let the varied lot of teas fool you, they are gourmet-range. It really makes a difference to a tea drinker. I'd even put their lattes on par with Jay's up there in the Towson Library! I know... blasphemy. But I swear. Truth.

onocoffee said...

You posted your comments three times. Two as yourself and one anonymously.

We'll simply have to disagree - as you stated: "The Japanese is not made in-house or authentic..." Enough said.

Then there's "Anonymous":
"...when you didn't get what you were looking for you were more disappointed than if you walked in with a mediocre mood."

Let me get this straight: we came in with high expectations and you're telling me that had we come in with our moods being "mediocre" and our expectations low, then we would have been satisfied or thought the food was better?

I didn't realize that expecting a place to use quality ingredients and deliver tasty food was "expecting a little too much."

I'm a bit perplexed about these comments. Evidently, mediocre ingredients and execution, along with pseudo-Japanese food is ideal and accepted in the Johns Hopkins area.

Like I've said in the past, I don't expect everyone to agree with me. Readers of this blog are welcome to comment on any topic and thread. I write my experiences on food and coffee and it's up to the readership to try the same places and compare whether or tastes match or conflict, then decide the value of my writings in your own quest for fulfillment.

Some of you will agree and find the details pertinent. The others will probably find the mediocre reviews of The Baltimore Sun's Elizabeth Large more to their tastes.

gerberdais said...

I'm an inexperienced poster... sorry.

Jay, I wasn't disagreeing with you. I just thought your experience was a one-time visit and you didn't get to try their other offerings. These guys like savory foods (Japanese notwithstanding) and being a cafe lounger, I was just offering my honest opinion. I wouldn't take it as a question of your own good taste and perspective. My experience (and those of the people I hear around me when I go) has been that it seems to draw people who love food and not just coffee/desserts. Which for me, is just as important. Now, they don't have the honey macchiato, but theirs (plain) is great. I drop a dollop of honey in and I'm good.