Given the amount of money that must have been poured into building the harbor's newest restaurant, Victor's Cafe is startlingly under-publicized.
Hardly anyone seems to know about Victor's, and that's too bad. I want it to hold on until spring, when its upper and lower decks will offer some of Baltimore's best waterside tables. It hardly matters how the food is when you've got a view like Victor's. But as a matter of fact, the food is quite decent.
You'd think Victor's would be packing 'em in. All the hottest trends are represented here: A menu with plenty of choices under $15. Straightforward grilled food with Mediterranean and Southwestern touches. Farfalle and penne. (Those are pastas if you're not feeling very with-it today.) Garlic mashed potatoes. And, of course, tiramisu and bread pudding for dessert.
Some of it doesn't work very well, like a flavorful but too thick potato chowder in a large bowl made of a French loaf called boule. If you ate all this you wouldn't have room for anything else. Or cinnamon shrimp Granados, featuring beautiful, large shrimp around a timbale of orzo (rice-shaped pasta). The sauce, based on a cinnamon liqueur, is too sweet.
Some of the food is over-hyped, like the appetizer described as a "unique seafood delicacy" (i.e., fried calamari) with a "special dipping sauce" (aka marinara). But hey. It was very good fried calamari.
Still, the kitchen has grilling down pat, which takes care of a large part of the menu. The seafood, like the twin grilled swordfish steaks, is fresh and well-prepared. Tender boneless chicken and large shrimp are grilled just long enough, with just enough Cajun spices to furnish a little kick. They come with a tropical fruit salsa made of chopped pineapple, red sweet pepper and such.
Sauces are sometimes too thick and too heavy, such as the cream sauce on the swordfish and the marsala sauce on the tender veal scaloppine. They are, however, beautifully seasoned and have lots of flavor. Victor's is short on subtlety but long on flavor.
Victor is Victor DiVivo, who is also a partner in the Bravo restaurant chain. According to our waitress, he's brought a pastry chef from Europe (now in Fairfax, Va.) to bake for his restaurants. The pastries we tried, a chocolate mousse cake and a tiramisu cake, were fine; but the moist raisin and nut bread pudding made on the premises was every bit as good.
801 Lancaster St., Pier 7
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Credit cards: Major credit cards
Prices: Appetizers, $4.25-$8.95; entrees, $9.95-$17.95