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Pazo, After Ten Years, Switches From Spanish Tapas To Italian - Aliceanna and S. Spring Street in Harbor East


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I stopped in here after working late (they serve food until 1am) in Baltimore one night a couple of weeks ago (been out the country since then) and left very impressed. They've done a great job converting a former warehouse into a stylish, multi-tiered restaurant. I grabbed a seat at the large bar, where the extremely friendly and knowledgeable bartender (I wish I could remember his name) took great care of me as the only solo diner amid the crush of drunk businessmen and cocktail drinking hipsters.

I had:

Braised veal cheeks - served with artichokes, mushrooms, pine nuts and some reduced braising sauce. Can't go wrong with veal cheeks.

Chorizo and potatoes - Very simple, with both ingredients sliced and sauteed along with some onions, but perfect

Mussels gratin - Good, but the mussels were a bit on the small side for this type of preparation (ratio of bread crumbs covering the half-shell to mussel meat too high)

Fritto misto - Calimari and a certain type of fish I can't remember, with a lemon and garlic aioli

Lamb on fougasse - a pile of cold shaved lamb on top of a toasted slice of fougasse bread smeared with a delicous garlic (and yogurt?) sauce. I didn't expect the lamb to be cold, but didn't mind-- it was kinda like a superb deli sandwich

Portions were generous for the prices (it ended up being alot of food for one person, but hey, it was very late and I hadn't eaten anything all day) and the interesting wine list is very reasonably priced. They have a nice cheese selection too, that I unfortunately didn't get to sample.

This place is definitely worth a drive from DC. Go, and you'll see why Sietsema reviewed it.

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My recent experiences echo yours - and Sietsema's. It's hard to get a reservation, at least on the weekends :lol:

They do the whole velvet cord and bouncer-with-headset routine at the door, kind of amusing in that neighborhood. Still with the very long bar and a big comfortable lounge area you don't have to sit at a table - you can order from the whole menu in the lounge - there are large cocktail tables to put everything on. If you show up early, like 5pm, you should not have any problem, even on Saturday.

The inside is baroque/vaguely Spanish/Moorish decor, with giant clay amphoras separating the lounge area from the raised dining/dance floor. Lots of wrought iron with some Pottery Barn type fixtures. The kitchen is open and there is also a balcony area with more seating, it's quieter and has a good view of the whole space.

Service has been efficient and friendly - but once the place is packed and people start coming later in the evening for dessert and dancing, the tapas can start arriving out of sync - too soon, too late. I've learned to order as I go - not all at once in the beginning of the meal.

I've liked:

*grilled prawns, chorizo and roast potatoes

*grilled sardines

*rabbit - can't remember, but think it was braised

*grilled quail

*grilled calamari (whole tubes stuffed with julienne of green apple)

*shrimp with garlic, tomato, and chili pepper

*grilled lambchops - on the small side but very tasty

*beets with pancetta in orange vinaigrette

*pappa fritta, (ripple potato chips)

*whole wheat peasant bread

*grilled mushrooms on greens (arugula?)

*cheeses - very good selection

*chocolate torte

*fruit tart du jour

*sorbets

The roasted pork ribs are just so-so. The creme brulee was nothing special.

They serve food until 1:00 a.m. but it's open until 2:00 am.

ok, now the hunger pains are getting serious...

Edited by crackers
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Recently, I enjoyed dinner at the bar at Babbo. I was about half way through my black pepper pappardelle with wild boar ragu when I thought hmm...what's missing from this dish? And, suddenly it occurred to me that I prefer the pappardelle with pork and veal ragu at Pazo. Don't take this to be a broader statement than it is. But, when Pazo is on, it's on.

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Its a birthday dinner extravaganza with la famiglia Saturday night and Pazo. Reservations and special requests have been made, but here are my questions: has anyone been, how does it compare to, say, Jaleo, and is there anything on the menu I shouldn't miss?

Someone else is paying, btw... so I think I might suggest Veuve Clicquot to start...

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To answer your question, it’s been a few years since I’ve been to Jaleo so I don’t feel that I am really in a position to compare and contrast the two. But, I do think the food compares favorably with Zaytinya. Desserts are better at Zaytinya, service is better at Pazo.

My favorite dishes at Pazo are:

Slow cooked lamb over pureed potatoes with a lemon wedge. Often this dish is absolutely perfect. Once the lamb was a bit dry – it is slow cooked after all, but that didn’t stop me from wolfing it down.

Bronzini with olive oil, lemon and dill over a slice of fried potato—a grown up version of fish and chips. Sometimes they serve a different fish with this preparation but I always love it. Also one of my husband’s favs, we debate getting two so that we can each have our own. Possibly too good to share.

Pappardelle with pork and veal ragu and shaved pecorino. Really fantastic, as I mentioned in a previous post, I actually prefer this to the black pepper pappardelle with wild boar ragu that I recently enjoyed at Babbo.

Spinach with garlic and pine nuts.

Chorizo and potatoes.

Braised rabbit.

Fougasse - the whole wheat bread.

The cheeses – skip dessert and select a few cheeses. Or just tell your waiter about your likes and dislikes and let them prepare a plate for you.

The food is simple, earthy and delicious. Occasionally there is a miss but more often not.

The wine list is a bargain. For the quality of the food and the experience, Pazo is very reasonably priced. I’m going back tomorrow night. If I have anything to add, I will.

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Wish I wasn't in a hurry because I'd like to do a long form post. That will come, soon. But the summation:

Went to Pazo. Fantastic service. Delicious meal. Pork ribs were okay, everything else delicious. Had a Spanish red I'm 75% sure would be $60 in DC for $30. 18 tapas courses (grand tasting dinner plus 8 other dishes to feed four of us), a dessert wine, four cups of cappucino. The bill?

$200, and that's with a 25% tip.

I asked my dad as we were leaving the restaurant: "How much are condos going for in Baltimore again?"

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Driving down Aliceanna to Pazo was a trip down memory lane. These were the alleys where I snuck many a beer underage, where I sat watching friends skateboard, where I would stop for a late night meatball sub after a local band rocked the stage at Fletchers. But the streets looked different. Sure, I was a bit older -- but it also seemed that the line between sketchy Baltimore and hip Baltimore had moved quite a few blocks since the last time I was in Fells. That block where Homeless Joe tried to sell me crack was now high priced condos. It was like running across an old car, but seeing it completely refurbished. Very surreal. And nowhere was this surreality more evident than in the dining room of Pazo, where Baltimore took on a sheen of style and class -- sans pretension -- that I had previously never experienced back home.

We were seated at 6 on the upper level of the restaurant and treated to a delicious amuse of crispy sunflower crackers (There's a better term for these, but that's all I got) served with a chili oil and an olive oil dipping sauce. While snacking on these I perused the wine list -- the incredibly well priced, delicious looking wine list. We settled on a red from southern Spain I was unfamiliar with (the website has the bin 305 as a $21 Mourvedre, but our bottle was $30 and I believe was not a Mourvedre) but which was advertised as being light and a strong compliment to Pazo's late Spring/early Summer menu. And it was. This wine -- light, bouncy, a perfect warm weather red -- would easily go for $60 in DC. My father, normally a bog-standard Cab man, was happy with the choice, surprised that a medium bodied red could still be so tasty. (I've tried to teach him, it's working slowly).

The menu was, in a word, long. The four of us couldn't settle so elected to go the grand tasting route, adding 8 extra courses to feed four of us. The amount of food was perfect, though having a pair of light eaters at the table helped. Highlights of the meal included the massive portion of eggplant dip, the salmon tartare, the roasted mushrooms served on arugala, the fantastic shrimp cooked in tomato and garlic, the asparagus wrapped in what appeared to be prosciutto but turned out to be cured beef tenderloin, the halibut served on a small piece of potato, and the absolutely amazing slow-cooked lamb. This last dish is one that is not to be missed; the second my fork hit it, the meat fell off into amazingly tender strands. It was lamb the way lamb is meant to be served. Note: these highlights are just the courses I remember a few days out. Everything we had was delicious, with the exception of the pork ribs, which were mediocre (too dry, not much flavor). One loser out of 18? Not bad.

Dessert was a goat cheese cake and a trio of sorbets. The cheesecake was good, the sorbets better. Their coffee sorbet in particular was exemplary, exploding on the tongue and then disappearing suddenly, a fleeting dream. I'm not a dessert man normally and I loved it.

Pazo is worth 3 stars. Pazo is worth the hour drive north. Pazo is worth the four gallons of gas it takes to get there. Pazo is worth every laudatory statement it's been given. I've already mentioned the (super cheap) price, but even at a percentage more I would recommend it. It's easily on my top three meals of 2005 thus far list. Referring back to another thread -- sure, the wonderful experience I had was generously aided by being with family and with some great conversation, but I think I could have been dining with Homeless Joe and a cardboard cutout of Mussolini and would still have loved my meal.

K

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Heading up to B-more on Sat and am going to dinner at Pazo.  Anyone been recently and can recommend some good tapas?

The involtini di tono was definitely the highlight when I was there last. Don't miss that. And the ice cream-sorbet-granita (hazelnut-strawberry-espresso) trio for dessert was surprisingly good.

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I stopped in last night after work. Not sure if it was just a bad night for them, but the food, including many dishes I'd previously loved, was not good. Some overcooking going on, but the larger problem was that things were flavorless. The usually great potatoes and chorizo dish was bland, as was the beets with pancetta (with the pancetta cooked to the point of the texture of dried out croutons). The one dish I did like, though, was the socca (chickpea pancake) with caramelized onions. Someone tell me this place isn't going downhill (though I hadn't been in awhile, it's one of my favorite places in Baltimore, especially after working late).

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I haven’t been to Pazo in awhile myself but I do plan to go sometime very soon. I really crave Pazo’s food in fall and winter – their meat dishes, like the slow cooked lamb, for instance, are my absolute favs. Of course, off nights are always possible but I’d be surprised (and deeply saddened) if it goes seriously downhill. I think Tony Forman cares too much and works too hard for that. Spotted him, btw, last weekend at the downtown farmer’s market, very early, picking out apples.

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I dined at Pazo last night before the blowout. I really nice space. A large 300 seat restaurant on two levels with a main dining area on the floor and a mezzanine surrounding. The place is so dark that the waiters carry pen flashlights so patrons can read the menus.

The menu is primarily tapas; however, some tapas are available in entrée size. We had 5 tapas between us but the ones that stood out were the malloreddus and the braised veal. The malloreddus was saffron pasta with a lamb ragu with pecorino. Outstanding. A hearty ragu with a bit of sting on the back of the tongue from some red pepper. On a different night, I might order the entrée portion. The braised veal came with a spiced pumpkin puree and some pumpkin seeds for crunch.

I was not thrilled with the chorizo and potatos. The chorizo did not have that characteristic zing to it. I thought it was somewhat bland.

5 tapas, 3 glasses of wine and a cocktail: $63 including tip.

Service is efficient and our tapas came seriatum. I'd recommend it for Baltimore dining.

Edited by Jacques Gastreaux
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I have been to Pazo quite a few times and the place is just too hip for me on weekend nights!

I went there this past Saturday with folks who hadn't been there before.

Their winelist is a good value with interesting Mediterranean wines for a fair price. We had a wonderful Tempranillo-Cab Blend. It was so dark at our booth that even though some of the other menu items looked more interesting, we had the sampler for six so we wouldn't have to strain our eyes. They served the sunflower crackers but sans any of the oils this time. Most of the food included on the sampler was delicious including an incredible hangar steak (bistec catalonia). I think there was a pork pinchito that was delicious also, along with a pasta and eggplant dish (trofie ala norma) which I wouldn't have minded seconds of! The shrimp with garlic and tomato was another story, the shrimp were so small and textureless it seemed to come from a can! The meal ended with cannolis and some sort of cheese which was good but I don't know the name as we could barely hear the server!

As for the place just being too hip, on weekends it attracts that sort of crowd that wants to be seen. I would suggest based on past experiences to go during the week or on a Sunday. Go there on a weekend if you want to see a modern day version of the freak show. (Can't believe I said that, but I did!) Just don't take small children unless you want to scar them for life!

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I have been to Pazo quite a few times and the place is just too hip for me on weekend nights!

Me too-- I find the weekend crowd of hipsters there annoying. The secret is to go straight to the small bar that is in one of the corners of the balcony. It's usually empty, you can sit and order food there, and you will generally be well taken care of by the bartender. If I was working late on a Friday, I'd sometimes head for that bar to eat in (relative) peace.
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I was also at Pazo on Saturday night with a group of friends from my neighborhood. I rarely go to Pazo on weekends just because it is so insanely crowded. We must have a very different definition of hip because I just wasn’t feeling it at all on Saturday night. I thought the crowd was pretty pedestrian and regretfully, I completely missed anything that remotely resembled a “freak show.”

I thought the food was as good as ever. All of my favs were spot on – the seared bronzini, slow cooked lamb, tunno crudo, whole wheat fougasse, malloreddus, involtini di tunno. Lots of other plates were passed around the table that I can’t recall because of high alcohol consumption. The one thing that I did not care for was a pizza, simply because it was undercooked. I like a charred crust.

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I was also at Pazo on Saturday night with a group of friends from my neighborhood.  I rarely go to Pazo on weekends just because it is so insanely crowded.  We must have a very different definition of hip because I just wasn’t feeling it at all on Saturday night.  I thought the crowd was pretty pedestrian and regretfully, I completely missed anything that remotely resembled a “freak show.” 

You must have not seen the table next to mine! They were all taking turns with each other, 'nuff said. (Delete this if you want Don). BTW I meant hip in the most sarcastic of ways! :)

I just feel most of the people that were in at that time were there for a clubbish atmosphere as opposed to a dining atmosphere. I have been to Pazo where it has been a totally different atmosphere during the week or maybe even earlier in the evening. Our reservations were for 8:30 but we did not get seated until 9:15 or so.

The Bronzini was also part of our menu and it was perfectly executed. On the food side my only complaint was the shrimp.

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I had a number of tasty tapas at Pazo Friday night with a buddy of mine at the bar. Serrano ham, cabrales, a simple yet intense tomato salad, a little bronzini, some bites of lamb, and anchovies were all delicious. Despite the frenzied crowd, the bartenders provided attentive service and good wine recommendations. I can’t say the management was as accommodating. At the end of our meal, we asked for a couple of snifters of Calvados before we headed off to slum around the less reputable bars of Fells Point for a while. The smell and taste was overpoweringly nail polish remover-like and, in our opinions, undrinkable. We brought this to the attention of the bartender who flagged down a manager. She took a whiff, said it was fine, and was completely unreceptive to our request to send it back.

Now, there are drinks I don’t like (most grappas and some single malts come to mind), but I can taste the quality and appeal in them. They’re simply flavors I don’t care for. And I’ve enjoyed Calvados before. There was something clearly wrong with this stuff and I resent having to pay nearly $30 for these 2 lousy drinks. We literally left with a bad taste in our mouths. :unsure:

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Richard Gorelick's July, 2007 review of Pazo amplifies why I cannot be the same presence in Baltimore that I am in Washington - it's logistically impossible for me to be an expert about the dining scene there. For this website to have any degree of credibility in Baltimore and Annapolis, we cannot be carpetbaggers; all we can do is provide a forum for the dining experts in these two cities to rise up and shine on their own, some of whom will hopefully become known food writers through their writings here and elsewhere on the internet. That said, I can't wait to begin exploring Baltimore more closely as an up-and-coming dining scene, and supporting chef-owned excellence wherever I see it. Cheers, Rocks.

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monday night out for two cooks. enjoyed a simple, honest, meal at the helmand. not being entirely satisfied due to lackluster sysco-esque desserts and chewy turkish coffee demanded a fresh palate cleansing drink. pazo for a change of pace and a bit of glamour? hardly. this being monday, the usual only day off, we both wore comfortable clothes suited to the cold rainy night. instead of being greeted amicably by a hostess we stood face to face with a lengthy sign detailing dress requirements for pazo's bar and lounge (underscore bar and lounge) A well spoken and well dressed hostess appeared offering a curt smile and a short appraisal of the two of us with her eyes. instead of a hospitable "good evening" or "welcome" she inquired about my boyfriend's shirt and was it collared? uh no, of course not. it's monday remember and who cares about his shirt collar when your bar/lounge is entirely empty save for one properly attired soul sitting at the bar. bottom line, two people in the hospitality industry with a day off looking to enjoy what our guests get to experience, don't need to take crap from some stuffy hostess with an empty restaurant. don't want our business because we don't look the part? look beyond the obvious and you'd see a chef of a well respected dc spot and an enthusiastic pastry assistant looking to relax and throw some hard earned money around back into the business. you're not so cool to afford to turn away guests during a recession, pazo.

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