A mall cafe with a twist

Restaurant: Few shoppers might expect gourmet dining in a shopping center, but with Remomo, they will find it.

Sunday Gourmet


Remomo has quite an impressive pedigree for a mall restaurant. And make no mistake about it: Remomo is a mall restaurant, designed to be a place where you can get a quick bite and then head for the Saks outlet or one of the 24 movie theaters.

But it's also part of the Country Fare Group, which consists of the Milton Inn, Brass Elephant, Kings Contrivance and City Lights. Restaurant consultant Michael Dalesio, who once owned Dalesio's in Little Italy, and Randy Stahl, former chef of the Brass Elephant, are the principal partners.

The dining room was designed by San Francisco architect Cass Calder Smith and features swooping curves, seating on several levels, light woods except for a 40-foot mahogany bar, a display kitchen, rotisserie and wood-fire oven. It should be wonderful -- Smith wins awards for his restaurant design -- but it reminded me of an airport restaurant. Maybe it was the hordes of people trooping through, or the huge, hand-lettered sign over the bar announcing the New Year's bash.

But that was a minor disappointment. More to the point, it's been a long time since we've been able to get a Randy Stahl meal at these prices. And who would expect a teen-age waitress in a mall restaurant to be as knowledgeable about the food or to be able to recommend one wine by the glass over another. (The wine list is limited, but every bottle also comes by the glass. After all, many of the customers will be doing some serious shopping after the meal and will need to keep their wits about them.)

The Italian cafe menu is kid-friendly, in spite of its upscale origins, with at least half of it quick, inexpensive food -- pasta, pizza and sandwiches. But if you do want to linger over several courses of a good meal, you could start with mushrooms stuffed with prosciutto and cheese in a buttery sauce or mozzarella in carrozza, with a golden crust, a molten center and a fresh-tasting tomato sauce. Clams Adriatica would have benefited from bacon cooked a little longer, but the sweet little clams in their sauce of garlic and herbs stood on their own beautifully.

Only one soup is featured, but it's a good one: a light minestrone with lump crab meat at its center. Or start with a simple green salad and balsamic vinaigrette. (You'll probably eat too much of the freshly baked focaccia and olive oil anyway.)

The main courses break down into grills, sautes and specialties roasted in the wood-fire oven. The star of the show is a porterhouse cut of pork, a gorgeous piece of snowy white meat, juicy and tender. It had just a whisper of sweet and pungent sauce highlighted with slivers of red pepper. On the side were a mix of potatoes (red-skinned, Yukon gold and sweet) and a few baby carrots. Real baby carrots, with the tops still on.

Grilled salmon was less spectacular -- for some reason I've been getting fresher salmon in the supermarket than at the restaurants I've been to lately -- but its dice of roasted vegetables and the Mediterranean pearl pasta were aromatic and flavorful. A tender boneless breast of chicken sauced with a fragrant reduction of Marsala and balsamic vinegar was subtle and appealing.

But don't overlook more modest dishes. Lasagna carnivale had lots of character: toothsome noodles, generous amounts of cheese and sausage, and a fine, meaty tomato sauce. Pizza bianco, a white pizza with fresh tomato and basil, is also worthy of consideration.

Desserts, made in house, included tiramisu, profiteroles filled with gelato and an apple strudel with a doughy crust that was the biggest disappointment of our meal. Try the seven-layer chocolate cake, freshly baked and fudgy, or the chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup. The most appealing dessert to my mind is the miniature cannoli, filled with creamy mascarpone and chopped pistachios.

Remomo is so successful a mall restaurant you might wonder why every mall doesn't have one. The downside, I suppose, is that it's too tempting to sit here and linger over your meal. You might never get out and start shopping.


Food: ***

Service: ***

Atmosphere: ** 1/2

Where: 7000 Arundel Mills Circle

Hours: Open every day for lunch and dinner

Prices: Appetizers, $6.50-$7.95; main courses, $9.95-$19.95

Call: 410-579-6666

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

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