They call it Michael's Riviera Grill, but it is essentially Dalesio's with a harbor view.
Michael and Cindy Dalesio, founders of the critics' favorite Little Italy restaurant, moved this summer into the space once occupied by JaFe, bringing much of their old menu with them. How could the results be anything but good for Baltimore? Now there are two places in town where one can sigh over scallops Avvolgere and shrimp Miguel.
On the top floor of the Brookshire Hotel, Michael's commands an impressive view, and though it lacks the intimacy of the Little Italy dining rooms, the combination of dim lights and city lights promotes a very Manhattan sense of romance.
Carpaccio roulade ($6.75) was made of raw tenderloin, very thinly sliced and almost ice-cold, wrapped around a creamy filling flavored with horseradish and chives. Capers and chopped shallots were served on the side. It was not as exciting a dish as it sounds, but its blending of mellow richness with sharp, powerful flavors was unquestionably sophisticated.
The grilled peppers, on the other hand, were much more thrilling than they sounded. After grilling, the red and yellow pepper slices were marinated in olive oil with fresh basil and a hint of anchovy, and served cold. The chilling seemed to bring out the sweetness of the peppers and the complementary savory blend of the condiments. It was a delightful dish, but in view of its simplicity, $5.75 seems a hefty price tag.
Caesar salad ($6.25) was all it should be; the menu calls it "a San Francisco treat," and I'll take it over Rice-A-Roni any time. Purists may grouch that the anchovies should be ground up instead of laid in strips on top, but this approach was a boon both to my anchovy-shunning companion and to this anchovy lover, who got to eat more than her share.
Homemade spinach fettuccine ($14.50) was one of this city's most elegant pastas, vibrant with garlic, ringed by tender sauteed scallops, and best of all, bedded in a creamy pink bell pepper sauce of absolutely indescribable flavor -- delicately sweet, but with an impact that was not at all wimpy.
Fresh tuna ($17.75) was thick, moist and steak-like, and had a lot of flavor of its own, enhanced by the Provencal-style topping of tomatoes, onion and herbs. Although its calorie count was not enumerated, it was in the Dalesio "spa cuisine" tradition, healthful but not meager in the taste department.
One of the biggest problems with trying to lose weight with a Michael's meal, though, is the addictive quality of the crusty bread and sweet butter.
Desserts are nice, but unnecessary. (Our espresso cake, which came from a Washington bakery, was satisfactorily chocolaty, but had no discernible coffee note.) A much better topper to the meal was another Mike Dalesio signature -- free Fontinella cheese and purple grapes.
Our nice-guy waiter informed us that an expanded menu, with more pasta dishes, will be offered soon. Foodies all over town will be waiting to see how these inventive restaurateurs will make their new place a bit more than Dalesio's-in-the-clouds.
Michael's Riviera Grill
Where: Brookshire Hotel, 120 E. Lombard St.
Hours: Open for breakfast 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily; lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays to Fridays; dinner 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, 4:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Credit Cards: AE, CB, MC, V.
Features: Mediterranean cuisine.