New owners re-open Simon's

TABLE TALK

a new chef at Sotta Sopra

Eats: dining reviews, Table Talk

December 18, 2003|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A neighborhood hangout has reopened in Butchers Hill. The former owners of Simon's Pub closed the place last spring -- much to the dismay of many locals. Now two Butchers Hill residents have given it new life. And Eugene Jones and Lorraine Herson-Jones have dubbed it Simon's of Butchers Hill.

Herson-Jones says the couple had been looking for a location in which to open a restaurant and were delighted to be able to do so in their own back yard, so to speak. She says they want to retain the comfortable neighborhood feel, so they've made only slight changes to Simon's. The front room still has its big oak bar and black- and-white tile floors. But the back room, the dining room, has been freshened up with cranberry walls and white tablecloths. And you'll find a lot of wrought-iron touches. Jones -- previously general manager at Fat Lulu's -- has added a slight New Orleans twist to the place. And not just in the decor.

The menu has been pared down and spiced up. While the lunch menu consists of five items -- such as baby spinach and blue cheese salad ($5.50); and fried oyster po'boy sandwich ($8) -- the dinner menu consists of 15 small plates. You'll find beer-battered tiger shrimp with spicy Tabasco aioli ($12); sweet potato-crusted catfish fillet ($7); and grilled petite filet mignon ($11). There are also daily specials for lunch and dinner -- full-plate entrees such as fried chicken with mashed sweet potatoes and a vegetable medley; or salmon baked in parchment with crispy spinach. Those specials, Herson-Jones says, should range from $12 to $18. The cozy eating place also serves Sunday brunch from noon to 3 p.m.

Simon's of Butchers Hill, 410-534-7100, is at 2031 E. Fairmont Ave. Closed Monday and Tuesday, its hours are 11:30 a.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, and 11:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Palate pleasers

Speaking of tossing a little New Orleans into the mix, that's what Sotta Sopra's new executive chef has also done. Sort of. James Sibal's most recent gigs have been at Restaurant Indigo and Commander's Palace in the Big Easy. However, his roots are here. He grew up in Baltimore and went to the Gilman School. Sibal says he is freshening up the menu -- adding new dishes, with ingredients new to the restaurant.

"I personally like clean, bold flavors," Sibal says. He lists his new item, horseradish-crusted salmon with potato and leek latke, finished with a Madeira beet coulis ($24), as a good example.

"That dish hits every part of the palate."

Other examples include pan-seared red snapper over a crawfish, corn-and-tomato ragout with lobster broth and a mache salad ($25); and sage-crusted half-chicken with buttermilk mashed potatoes and a porcini mushroom and prosciutto pan gravy ($24).

Even some of the pasta dishes are getting an overhaul, courtesy Sotta Sopra's longtime Italian chef, Maurizio Ghidinelli. Some of his updates are duck ravioli in a butter sage and pancetta sauce ($17); and gnocchi stuffed with shrimp with a Parmesan cream sauce and white truffles ($24).

Sotta Sopra, 410-625-0534, is at 405 N. Charles St.

Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions by fax to Sloane Brown, 410-675-3451, or by e-mail to sloane@livetabletalk.com.

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