You walk into Tabrizi's and into warmth, the wonderful smells of garlic, mint, saffron, prosciutto, hot peppers and pine nuts -- and the sight of the chef flaming shrimp at the stove.
Michael Tabrizi knew what he was doing when he put the kitchen right inside the front door of his new restaurant on South Charles Street in Federal Hill. As soon as you walk inside, you're surrounded by the most delectable aromas and greeted by smiles as warm as the Mediterranean.
Tabrizi's is located where the Soup Kitchen used to be, but it's a whole different place now. "We wanted French country charm but not really French country style," says Susan Daniel, co-owner with Michael Tabrizi of the new restaurant.
"I wanted an open kitchen," Mr. Tabrizi, who is also the chef, says, "so people can come in and immediately see the clean high-tech kitchen. I didn't want it hidden. And I wanted the chance for communication."
While customers are saying hello and making their way back to the dining room, Mr. Tabrizi may be cooking up any of the dozens of dishes from rim of the Mediterranean Sea -- from France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel or Egypt. Mr. Tabrizi grew up in Haifa, Israel, and later had his own restaurant in Cologne.
The menu includes coq au vin, lamb ragout, pork medallions with green peppercorns, paella, kibbeh, cornmeal crepe gateau, stuffed zucchinis, hummus, warm scallop salad, fattoush, tabouleh, chicken fan salad, falafel, shrimp El Hambra, dolmas, baba ghanoush, minestrone and pita pockets. There are also such things as gagi mish-mish, a boneless chicken breast sauteed and served over rice then topped with a sauce of apricots, prunes, apples, walnuts and raisins; and shushbarak, a Turkish soup made with yogurt and tortellini, flavored with mint leaves and garlic.
Desserts include tiramisu, tartin tatin, chocolate mousse, Greek and Turkish pastries, cheese with fresh fruit, creme caramel and kunafa, which is homemade phyllo dough stuffed with ricotta cheese and then laced, after baking, with a sweet syrup.
There are 15 different items for vegetarians, according to Ms. Daniel, including a dish called Cindy's stir fry which Mr. Tabrizi invented at the request of a customer. He was so pleased with the result he named it for her and put it on the menu. "When food is fresh you can be flexible," he says. "We can make things like paella without chicken for people who want it that way."
Soft pink dining rooms on two floors seat 50 people. Beginning April 15, Ms. Daniel says, they will open a backyard garden that seats another 50. At that time they will also be adding more seafood to the menu.
Any menu item is sold for carryout and Federal Hill residents have found an extra touch to their carryout service -- someone from the restaurant calls when the order is done.
Tabrizi is located at 1026 S. Charles St. The hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and, on Sundays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for dinner. The restaurant is closed on Mondays. The telephone number is 752-3810.
There's not much that's recognizable about the old Bolton Hill Dinner Theatre in Moscow Nights, the new Russian and Ukrainian restaurant that opened recently in its place.
Gone is the stage. Now it's all one huge dining room done in deep burgundy and blue with seats for 250 diners. One wall was opened up as a huge window with a dramatic view out toward Meyerhoff Hall and the Belvedere Hotel. Space was left off to one side for a large dance floor. There is music on weekends played by a Russian-style band made up of musicians who moved to Baltimore from Moscow.
The owners -- Sasha Pais, Rudy Filipovits, Vadim Vavulitsky and Lenna Pinkus -- all were born in either the Ukraine or Eastern Europe. The chefs, Karolina and Yemelyan Mostovoy, who are husband and wife, came from Kiev in the Ukraine.
The menu includes Siberian red caviar, Russian black caviar, Ukrainian beet salad, smoked sprats, baked fish with potatoes, vareniki and pelmeni (filled dumplings), shrimp Russki, clams on the half shell, broiled oysters with spinach and melted cheese, Byelorussian mashed potato cakes, Ukrainian pork chops, beef stroganov, chicken Kiev, chicken shashlik, sauteed chicken breast with crab imperial, broiled stuffed lobster tail and baked stuffed clams.
(A warning: Diners have reported up to three-hour waits for dinner to arrive after they were seated on recent weekends. Some cold nibbles, bread and vodka were provided, but so far the kitchen seems overwhelmed by the size of the dining room.)
The restaurant will be open for lunch in about two weeks, according to Mr. Pais. Currently the dinner hours are 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays and Sundays, 5 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays. Even after the kitchen closes for the night, the restaurant and the bar stay open until 2 a.m.