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Arí´mes, Chef Steve Monnier's Farm-to-Table, Artistic French BYOB at 3520 Chestnut Avenue in Hampden


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At 1000yregg's urging, we booked a dinner last weekend at Arí´mes, a new spot in Hampden that just opened a couple of weeks ago.  Chef Monnier hails from Reims with a résumé that stands on classic haute cuisine spots in Paris and LA, but has chosen to open his small (24-ish seat) operation in a converted rowhouse, specializing in seasonal and local ingredients.  Dinner is a prix fixe affair of six courses for $65, or three for $45.  Four of the courses are smaller bites to precede the main course, and then you proceed to dessert.

Because of the ever-changing menu, it's somewhat academic to repeat what we had, but each course's description sounded simple, unexpected, and maybe even opportunistic, and yet each time what arrived was remarkably integrated, and much more than the sum of its parts to the extent that each component became essential.  Also evident was a high degree of technique and care in the preparation.

I'm only going to describe a few of our courses, but there wasn't a dud in the bunch.  "Beets, umeboshi, pear jam, and lucky plum" combined soft and crisp textures in a small composition of fleshy fruits and root vegetables, plated with a flourish of beet ash.  It cleansed the palate for the next course, a little taste of "risotto and scallop chicharrones with Old Bay mayo".  I don't know how they struck upon the idea of making chicharrones out of large thin curls of good scallops, but its compelling and concentrated umami was almost unreal, and a worthy match for a few bites of perfectly toothy risotto.  The "oyster with green apple and sorrel" was a single oyster on a bed of rock salt, topped with a foam (the only appearance of modernist technique all evening) so you breathed its flavor as much as you tasted it.  This course was a bit precious, but whatever oyster they used (it wasn't indicated) was beautifully clean and deeply cupped, almost like a kusshi, which makes me really curious where it's coming from in this region?

The chalkboard near the front window held only thank-yous to a number of their suppliers: Vent Coffee Roasters (excellent, btw), Trickling Springs Creamery, Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, Two Boots Farm, Baltimore Organic Farm, and Liberty Delight Farm.  It's not a place for wildly crowd-pleasing dishes like Rose's, and to be honest I think a picky eater wouldn't have enjoyed all of these dishes, nor the menu format.  But if our meal was any indication, Aromes is worth the serious diner's consideration, and worth the trip.

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At 1000yregg's urging, we booked a dinner last weekend at Arí´mes, a new spot in Hampden that just opened a couple of weeks ago.  Chef Monnier hails from Reims with a résumé that stands on classic haute cuisine spots in Paris and LA, but has chosen to open his small (24-ish seat) operation in a converted rowhouse, specializing in seasonal and local ingredients.  Dinner is a prix fixe affair of six courses for $65, or three for $45.  Four of the courses are smaller bites to precede the main course, and then you proceed to dessert.

Because of the ever-changing menu, it's somewhat academic to repeat what we had, but each course's description sounded simple, unexpected, and maybe even opportunistic, and yet each time what arrived was remarkably integrated, and much more than the sum of its parts to the extent that each component became essential.  Also evident was a high degree of technique and care in the preparation.

I'm only going to describe a few of our courses, but there wasn't a dud in the bunch.  "Beets, umeboshi, pear jam, and lucky plum" combined soft and crisp textures in a small composition of fleshy fruits and root vegetables, plated with a flourish of beet ash.  It cleansed the palate for the next course, a little taste of "risotto and scallop chicharrones with Old Bay mayo".  I don't know how they struck upon the idea of making chicharrones out of large thin curls of good scallops, but its compelling and concentrated umami was almost unreal, and a worthy match for a few bites of perfectly toothy risotto.  The "oyster with green apple and sorrel" was a single oyster on a bed of rock salt, topped with a foam (the only appearance of modernist technique all evening) so you breathed its flavor as much as you tasted it.  This course was a bit precious, but whatever oyster they used (it wasn't indicated) was beautifully clean and deeply cupped, almost like a kusshi, which makes me really curious where it's coming from in this region?

The chalkboard near the front window held only thank-yous to a number of their suppliers: Vent Coffee Roasters (excellent, btw), Trickling Springs Creamery, Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, Two Boots Farm, Baltimore Organic Farm, and Liberty Delight Farm.  It's not a place for wildly crowd-pleasing dishes like Rose's, and to be honest I think a picky eater wouldn't have enjoyed all of these dishes, nor the menu format.  But if our meal was any indication, Aromes is worth the serious diner's consideration, and worth the trip.

Dave, Arí´mes sounds like it has instantly vaulted to being one of the most important and best restaurants in Baltimore, if not in all of Maryland. Look at these pictures!

Of note: The restaurant is a BYOB, and is open only Tue-Sat, opening at 5PM.

How would you compare this to Riverstead / Town House?

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Of note: The restaurant is a BYOB, and is open only Tue-Sat, opening at 5PM.

How would you compare this to Riverstead / Town House?

Ah, yes...I forgot to mention BYOB.  Baltimore seems to have quite the BYOB scene at the moment.

We had an excellent meal, full of skill, but IMHO I'd be hesitant to declare that this is "important" until we see more conceptualization.  It didn't seem to be quite as ambitious as Riverstead / Town House.  The re-do of the rowhouse interior is nicely done, in muted Edison bulb lighting with exposed brick and new wood flooring in something resembling Ipe, but the character of the space is more cozy and communal than formal, more Brooklyn than Manhattan.  Plus, Monnier seems to be doing all of the work himself, whereas after you've navigated a main meal at TH and are ready for dessert, Karen Urie-Shields is a formidable talent in her own right.

I don't know when they posed the dishes for that photo shoot, or even if the bright colors and vegetables were supposed to be typical of what was seasonal and local in January, but in the dead of winter the ingredients tend towards root vegetables and subdued colors.  I'd love to see what Arí´mes is capable of from late spring through the autumn months.

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