Remington bistro overcomes challenges to defy expectations with its Asian-flavored, gluten-free fare
Published: July 6, 2011
It’s been a tough road for Meet 27, a new self-styled “American bistro” in Remington. Competing Remington neighborhood associations have supported and fought against the restaurant’s creation (the latter delaying the opening), and just weeks ago, some Remington residents successfully petitioned to have the restaurant’s Class “B” license, granted by the Baltimore City Liquor License Board, removed. Meet 27, which opened in late April with a liquor license in limbo, is now resolutely BYOB, and the bar that runs along one side of the restaurant under a grab bag of crystal chandeliers sits dark and empty.
Despite all this, the restaurant perseveres with an endearing scrappiness. Co-owner Paul Goldberg works the dining room like a seasoned pro, greeting diners, taking orders, and reassuring that everything on the menu, including that hamburger bun, is gluten-free. Partner Richard D’Souza, who with his wife Renee, owns the Sweet Sin Bakery next door, sticks to the kitchen, where fragrant bursts of garlic and ginger escape to sweep through the dining room in an invisible palate-teasing cloud.
In some ways, Meet 27 will remind you of your favorite college-town haunt, and not just because many of the restaurant’s patrons look like they just stepped off campus. The dining room’s murals, which include a pastiche of Baltimore characters like Edgar Allan Poe and Divine, were painted by MICA students, and the sturdy wood tables, made from a combination of reclaimed Brazilian pine and wood pallets from the Federal Reserve, suggest the kind of casual, let’s-take-the-seminar-out-of-the-seminar-room vibe. Not only is the compact menu gluten-free, but there’s a fair balance of vegan and vegetarian dishes, as well as items for carnivores, a rare feat in this city.
D’Souza brings a distinct South Asian influence, courtesy of his Indian upbringing, to Meet 27’s menu. Where many vegetarian restaurants turn to tofu for stir fries, D’Souza uses paneer, and his chili paneer ($14) looks like the Chinese carryout staple sweet and sour chicken, all glistening dark glaze under a shower of sesame seeds. But the tempura-battered cheese and vegetables serve as a mild foil to the hot and sweet sauce, and the accompanying mushroom polenta becomes more of a texture than a flavor, and an additional component to counteract heat. It’s not the most visually attractive dish, but it is pretty addictive.
Nods to Indian cooking also show up in a fiery vindaloo pork ($9), rich with chunks of pork and slivers of cinnamon sticks and much more substantial than it appears, served up in a small bowl accompanied by rice and roasted vegetables; in aloo tikki ($11), a potato croquette serving as burger substitute; and in vegetable fritters ($6), a mix of eggplant, spinach, cauliflower, and potato bound together with a chickpea batter (also used for the restaurant’s “signature fries”). These are comfort-food tasty and benefit from the tamarind and mint sauces that come with them.
Meet 27 also serves more straight-ahead meat-and-potato fare such as NY strip steak, lamb chops, and hamburgers, made with local and organic dry-aged beef, according to the menu. Even cooked medium (the only temperature the kitchen will prepare a burger), the Classic American burger ($11) retained some juiciness and full flavor.
The blandly named “veggie platter” ($17), however, does little to alert you of what’s to come, despite the menu description listing the individual components. What it doesn’t say is that the sautéed seasonal vegetables include beets and cauliflower and share a hollowed-out eggplant with bright turmeric-seasoned rice, that the “Asian-style babaganoush” is served warm, and the grilled pepper stuffed with plantains and veggies tastes slightly sweet and almost floral. All components are wildly generous in size, but I still wanted more of the spinach empanada served with a very fresh mango relish. The kitchen might want to consider adding the empanadas to the list of appetizers, which also includes a hummus plate ($6), salmon tartare ($9), and skinny skewers chicken satay ($7), served that evening with conventional peanut sauce and something orange and fiery.
If you’re not a connoisseur of vegan desserts you might not even know that the sturdy but creamy dark chocolate mousse ($6) is vegan or the silky, frozen coconut lime parfait ($6) is dairy-free. All desserts, including a Black Forest cake with cherry sauce, are also gluten-free and baked in-house, another considerate, but not unexpected, touch.
There’s a real sense of earnestness about Meet 27 that would make you want to root for it even if the food wasn’t as tasty as it is. Service is polite, though a little stretched, and servers could be a little more proactive about clearing tables of used napkins and glasses, and making a better space for takeout boxes. And I hope the restaurant finds a way to make use of the bar. Even if it continues to be BYOB, the space would be better served if it is used as something other than just a backdrop for the video jukebox. Still, Meet 27 is a boon for the Howard Street corridor as well as for the dining community that demands interesting vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free food.
As diners left the restaurant on the night I visited, they were thanked profusely for their patronage and asked to spread the word. Consider yourself told.
Meet 27 is open for dinner seven days.
> Email Mary K. Zajac