Monday, July 02, 2007


A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family,
And that's a magic number.

An unexpected call from Christine and Chef Mike about a long ago girl (psycho that she is) led to the three of us going out to check out Baltimore's new Three Restaurant (in it's third week of business) in Patterson Park.

Patterson Park. Don't know what it was like years ago but for most of my life it's been a drug-infested, crime-ridden area with corner dealers and lots of street hookers. About ten years ago, the pioneers started coming to gentrify the area and it's been steady progress since. However, I like a little adventure when visiting one of the most violent cities in America and while gentrification is "nice," I prefer that it doesn't come with Starbucks and a Cheesecake Factory.

Three took over the space formerly occupied by Parkside - whose owners spent big bucks transforming this run-down remnant of a pharmacy into a modern and gorgeous space. And Three is pretty gorgeous-looking. From the wood floors to the great-looking open-paneled bar (an idea for a future project), it's a modern and great-looking space - that really needs acoustical treatment. Badly.

I really don't like going out to eat on Friday or Saturday nights as I think the kitchen just isn't able to spend as much time with the food if they're trying to churn out 200 covers and two table turns. Where on a weekday, the chef may take his time lovingly swirling the saute pan, on a weekend, he's madly tossing in the ingredients, setting the flame to afterburner and tossing it a few times before he falls into the weeds. Not exactly my idea of an ideal meal.

But there we were, on a Friday night, waiting by the bar for our table for three. For forty minutes. While Chef Mike and Christine sloshed themselves on a variety of alcoholic treats.

Finally seated, our waitress was pleasant, courteous and steered us toward a very fruity (with hints of cherries and peach) California pinot noir. Alas, I can't remember the name and since Three doesn't seem to have a website...

Three is a "small plate" kind of restaurant - what most other places would call "tapas" without the actual Spanish dishes that make a tapas joint a tapas joint. There's some interesting stuff on the menu and we ordered most of them.

Unfortunately, the dishes were hit and miss. Some were good. Some were very good. Others were just "blah." Here's a quick rundown of the memorable ones:

Ahi Tartare
There's a ball of finely chopped ahi. It's got some spiciness. It's pretty darn good. It's worth checking out again.

Scallops wrapped in Bacon
These were two small scallops. Wrapped in bacon. Kinda bland. Kinda boring. Nothing to jump up about.

Lamb Chops
These three grilled lamb chops were perfectly executed and perfectly seasoned. Medium. French cut. Beautiful.

Grilled Romaine
Sliced a head of romaine in half down the center, sit the side on a grill. Char. Add some seasoning and some olive oil. Simple. Tasty. Nicely done.

Pomme Frites
Take a potato. Slice it a very thin (nearly chip thickness) waffle cut in a mandoline. Deep fry. Slather it with duck fat and serve with a side of mayo. This dish sounded incredible: duck fat. In the end, the fat was just that: fat, sitting on the chip, making it damp. No crispness, no flavor, no nothing. This needed a liberal dosing of salt. Too bad they don't put salt on the table at Three.

Grilled Polenta
One of the best grilled polenta's I've ever had was at Valhalla Restaurant in Sausalito, California. That was some incredible polenta. The texture was perfect with enough seasoning and butter to make it beautiful. Three's version was two thick slabs of polenta. Great texture, but again, they needed a little salt and some butter to give it some life.

Ahi Sashimi
The disaster of the lot. To me (and most of the free world), "sashimi" means one thing: raw fish. Perfectly sliced, unseasoned and served with some soy sauce and wasabi on the side. It is, by no means ever servedcooked and drizzled with terikayi sauce and mayo. This fish block was seasoned and pan seared, cooking the outside and leaving a perfect raw oval in the interior. This is called (by many places) "black and blue ahi" and should never ever EVER be called, or misconstrued as "sashimi." The only similarity between this dish and sashimi is that the fish was sliced.

But note that I said that the raw oval was "perfect." If they had called this "black and blue ahi" the execution of the cooking would have been perfect. In fact, the fish itself was beautifully meaty and luscious - just the way I prefer raw yellowfin tuna. That said, the sugar heavy teriyaki sauce with accompanying mayo drizzle was a mistake. Leave fish of this quality stand on its' own. It can!

Coeur la Creme
Ah, dessert. This one was tasty. Smooth, rich, velvety. I loved it. Perhaps a bit too rich for me though. An indulgence.

Coconut Chess Pie
Unlike the Coeur la Creme, this pie came from outside the house. From Dangerously Delicious Pies. Typical for DDP, the pie was rich, tasty and fattening. Their pies are good. We used to offer them at Spro. But they're not cheap. At DDP's own shop, a big slice of pie is $5.00. We offered an slice (8 per pie) for $3.50. At Three, what looked to be a 10 per pie slice cost $6.00. Too expensive for me to order next time around.

So there you have it: Three. Like I said above, the food is hit or miss. Some were good. Others were "ah." But it's still early for this new, hip restaurant and there's lots of promise. Michael, one of the three owners of Three, came by to ask our candid thoughts about the food. We were pretty candid with our candor. He seemed interested and I hope they take our suggestions to mind.

One thing: they need salt and pepper on the table if they're going to season the food this lightly. Many of the dishes could have been stellar if they just gave a pinch. Please.

Another thing: Please, get something to help the acoustics. I like modern looking spaces. I like hip-looking spaces. I don't like to nearly shout to talk to someone sitting across the table. Three is just "too loud." Hang some fabric panels on the wall, put up tapestries, whatever - just put something up to bring the noise to comfortable level.

In the end, I plan to go back. While I'm not jumping up and down for the food, the quality of the ingredients shows promise for potentially great food to come.

Next time, it will be a mid-week meal and not a weekend meal.