Minato adding Cafe Viet


September 04, 1997|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

A little over a year ago, the Japanese restaurant Minato opened in the spot where the Vietnamese restaurant CoChin had been at 800 N. Charles St. The owners were planning to open another Vietnamese place in South Baltimore, but that never materialized.

Now Alex Tran and Henry Wong have decided to divide the Minato space, which is five rooms in all, into two restaurants. On one side will be Minato, and on the other, Cafe Viet. This change should take place some time this month.

Tran says that the Vietnamese cafe's menu will be small and designed to appeal to American tastes; but he also plans to have specials involving more exotic fare. The two places will have separate phone numbers: Call 410-332-1554 to make reservations at the Cafe Viet when it opens; Minato's number is 410-332-0332.

Evolving in Harborplace

Soon after J. Paul's opens in the Light Street Pavilion of Harborplace - probably in October - Paolo's next door will shut down. Not because of the fierce competition from the new regional American restaurant. Paolo's and J. Paul's are actually owned by the same corporation (Capital Restaurant Concepts Ltd., which also operates Georgia Brown's in Washington and a number of other places).

Paolo's will be closing for extensive renovation. The bar will be relocated and the Italian restaurant will gain much-needed dining room seating in the back. (In the winter, when it loses its outdoor dining space, Paolo's can seat only about half as many people.) By summer of '98, if not before, it should be up and running again.

Trends in dining

Some interesting predictions for restaurant-goers turned up in a recent issue of the trade magazine Restaurants and Institutions. The magazine commissioned a study that came up with 60 top food-service trends, of which these were among the most important:

* Pan-Asian and Pacific Rim cuisines will influence many menus.

* Indian will emerge as a number of distinct regional cuisines, as Italian has done in the '90s.

* Premium teas will be big business.

* Vertical food presentations will be out. (No more "tall food.")

* Wraps (foods wrapped in tortilla-like pancakes) will flood the market.

* Elegance will be important again.

* And here's good news: By the year 2000, dining rooms will be noticeably less noisy.

Spicier Chili's

If you've ever waited for a seat at Baltimore's Chili's on a Friday night, you may find it hard to believe that business isn't as good as it used to be at the 400 or so restaurants in the national chain.

To combat the slide, reports the Wall Street Journal, Chili's executives hired a 34-year-old chef, Brian Kolodziej, to overhaul the menu in response to the demand for newer, spicier dishes. The new menu features margarita grilled chicken, guiltless veggie skewers and a nacho burger. Fried chicken salad, the verde burger and carrot cake have disappeared.

Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Send suggestions to Elizabeth Large, Table Talk, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278; fax to 410-783-2519; or e-mail to elarge592ol.com.

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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