Old love leaves, new one arrives in Fells Point

THE REAL DISH

January 24, 1993|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Staff Writer

First, the bad news: L'Auberge, the beloved but financially beleaguered Fells Point restaurant, closed last Saturday.

Now the good news: Chef Michael Gettier will reopen it next month as an "approachable French" restaurant with $12 entrees, $20 bottles of wine and a menu that's written in English.

If the new name -- M. Gettier Restaurant -- doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, the food most likely will please.

Mr. Gettier, former executive chef at the Peabody Court (now the Latham Hotel), is planning a menu of simplified French dishes, including smoked scallops ceviche, veal tenderloin with walnut sauce and salmon with a fresh herb crust.

Since leaving the hotel in July, Mr. Gettier, 36, has been feeling, well, kitchenless.

"Not having that pleasure was hard. It was like being snatched from a lover. You miss it," he says.

While he will retain much of L'Auberge's country French decor, he's intent on keeping entrees in the $12 to $18 range and most ZTC wines between $15 and $30 a bottle. He hopes that will help him thrive in a location where another restaurant closed.

"This isn't the prettiest neighborhood I've ever been in, but I think we'll offer a product that will overcome those obstacles," he says.

And by his side will be his wife, Claudia, who will prepare salads and desserts.

The two, who met in a restaurant kitchen six years ago, have no qualms about the work-marriage arrangement.

Their only concern? How to raise their 6 1/2 -month-old son and run a business.

"We're considering setting up a crib in the dining room," he says with a laugh.

Speaking of children, parents have another birthday party option these days: the Family Funjungle at the Enchanted Forest in Ellicott City.

Youngsters 12 and under can test their coordination in the play maze featuring a tunnel, fireman's slide, moon bounce and geodes-ic dome. There's also an arcade with skeeball, basketball and video games. For parties, the center offers pizza, ice cream and noisemakers. (Just what little ones need, right?)

"But the funniest thing," says director Kristen Eddins, "is watching the adults try to keep up with the kids."

To give them an edge, the Funjungle gives parents one advantage: kneepads.

Opened only two weeks, the long-awaited Vanguard Cafe on North Charles Street is already attracting an eclectic late-night crowd. The swank atmosphere -- marble floors, gilded mirrors and velvet wingback chairs -- has been a major draw for those who flock here after 9 p.m. But it's also doing a brisk lunchtime business.

"We wanted to bring style back to Baltimore," says Nancy Smanko, a partner in the cafe who previously designed IKEA showrooms.

In her pursuit of good taste, though, she hit a few snags, namely a brick in the sewage system and a faulty gas line, which delayed the opening several months.

In the kitchen, her partner Krista Apitz prepares a light menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts.

There's even more news on North Charles Street. Charles Tandoor, a new Indian restaurant, has opened in Charles Plaza where Mitsu used to be. Many employees from the recently closed Tandoor in Harborplace have signed on to work at this 93-seat bistro offering a buffet lunch, dinner and carryout, says vice president Larry Chend. (The two restaurants are not related, he says.)

Also in the old-becomes-new department, the Brasserie will open March 15 in the Pomona Square location where Attman's Delicatessen used to be. (Attman's recently decided not to renew its lease there.) Chef Michel Haudebert will run the casual Italian restaurant and deli serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Some of Maryland's best chefs are expected to gather at Truffles at the Belvedere on Feb. 8 for the seventh annual Central Maryland Chefs and Cooks Association Gala Dinner. Leave the calorie-counter at home because Dean Batlaf from the Harryman House, Philippe Bind from the Bread Place and Michael Rork from Harbor Court will be preparing courses. (For tickets, call [410] 234-0550, Ext. 3706.)

And finally congratulations to Mr. Rork, whose restaurant, Hampton's, is mentioned as one of the top 50 in the country by well-known food writer Mimi Sheraton in this month's Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

Have news about local restaurants, chefs or clubs? Call (410) 332-6156 or write the Real Dish, Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, 21278.

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