For those who like movie memorabilia Restaurant: Planet Hollywood is fun, but what can you say about a kitchen that fries lasagna?

August 09, 1998|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,SUN RESTAURANT CRITIC

When I heard Planet Hollywood was opening here in Baltimore, I imagined it would be something like the Hard Rock Cafe: a dark, incredibly crowded bar-restaurant with deafeningly loud music, featuring movie memorabilia instead of rock memorabilia.

Was I wrong.

Instead, it's like stepping into Oz. And being surrounded by half the Munchkins in Baltimore.

Am I the only person over 12 in this restaurant? No, there are parents. But for every parent there are two preteens and one toddler in a stroller. It's more like eating in a theme park than a trendy restaurant. Planet Hollywood is bright, light-filled and strangely innocent.

Here's a clue: The chicken strips are coated with Cap'n Crunch.

Here's another: There are more virgin coolers than white wines offered.

And the final one: The soup of the day is chicken noodle.

Now all this probably changes when it gets dark and it's past Junior's bedtime. But we arrive at Baltimore's newest hot ticket at 6, expecting a long wait.

I like the fact that we aren't kept waiting in a line outside. After we put our name on the list, we can sit at one of the many tables in the bar and order appetizers and drinks. We're told the wait will be an hour; but as it turns out, we're seated in about 20 minutes.

Upstairs in the dining room, the decor is a cheerful and slightly wacky mix of movie props, zebra-skin walls and leopard-skin floors, with previews and film clips featured on several movie screens. The sound system plays pop music and movie dialogue, but not so loud we can't talk over it. Tables are spaced comfortably far apart, and we have a great view of the harbor.

This is all much more pleasant than I imagined it could be. Until, alas, we get to the food.

After all, what can you say about a kitchen that fries its lasagna?

Yes, you read that right. Pasta tubes filled with cheese and meat sauce are lightly fried to a golden brown, as they say in menu-ese.

A Shanghai salad with greens, Asian noodles and all sorts of healthful vegetables is slimy with its Thai chili peanut dressing.

There's nothing wrong with our chicken dish - in fact it's the best of our entrees - except that we ordered something completely different, a Cajun chicken breast sandwich that costs $4 less. We decide to keep the marinated chicken breasts over red-skin mashed potatoes with a simple green salad - a very good decision, it turns out.

A Parmesan spinach dip reminds me of boil-in-the-bag creamed spinach except it's saltier. Crisply fried tostadas topped with barbecued chicken, cheese and onions would be a great, greasy appetizer except that the barbecue sauce is so sweet.

I like the appetizer pizza with cheese, chunks of fresh tomato, fresh basil and a thin, crisp crust - except for the garlic. Why use fresh basil if you aren't going to use fresh garlic? Fajitas are OK although not as good as Chili's. And a wonderful brownie and ice cream concoction for dessert needs real whipped cream.

Hey, look on the bright side. When we go to the ladies' room, an attendant applies liquid soap to our hands and gives us a towel; and we have a choice of what seems like dozens of perfume bottles to squirt ourselves with.

Planet Hollywood

Food: *1/2

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ***

Where: Pratt Street Pavilion, Harborplace

Hours: Open every day for lunch and dinner

Prices: Appetizers: $6.50-$9.50; sandwiches, salads and main courses: $7.95-$17.95; major credit cards

Call: 410-685-7827

Rating system: Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

Pub Date: 8/09/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.