Saffron owner back with Indian fare

TABLE TALK

August 08, 2007

In the end, Tony Chemmanoor, head of the Bombay Grill restaurant group, has gone back to what he knows best: Indian food.

Chemmanoor is the owner of what was the group's crown jewel, Saffron at 800 N. Charles St. When it opened, Saffron served Indian fusion cuisine and then later, Asian fusion. When its last chef, Edward Kim, left, Chemmanoor closed the place to regroup and make a few renovations.

It will reopen as Indigma - "not a fusion restaurant," he told me. As of press time, he was planning to reopen today, but he made it clear that might not happen. He's determined to open before next Wednesday, the 60th anniversary of Indian independence.

His new chefs, he says, will cook "innovative flavors of northern Indian with influences of southern." There will be both small and large plates, but the menu will be short and change frequently. Chef Rosario Gomes is from Bombay, where he worked in the Taj Hotel group. Chef Shahi Shajahan is from east India.

The name, Chemmanoor says, is a combination of "India" and "enigma" because the restaurant will be "something unique." Sounds like Saffron to me.

It's Back, or Not --I was cautiously optimistic about the fact that Abacrombie (58 W. Biddle St., 410-837-3630) was open again, at least for the moment. The new chef was Mark Schek, who owned the now-closed Rooster Cafe in Columbia. I talked to both James Markiewicz, the general manager of the restaurant, and Schek to confirm.

Then I got an e-mail from Schek saying that the new owners had decided to close for the month of August, a traditionally dead time for restaurants. He said he wasn't sure what he would be doing in September.

I called again and this time spoke to the innkeeper, Andy Vahora. (The bed and breakfast and the restaurant now have separate owners.) As of press time Vahora wasn't sure whether the dining room would be closed or not. In other words, call and confirm if you have reservations.

More Openings and Closings --I'm hearing good things about the new Penn Street Tavern (213 Penn St., 410-752-5858), which opened where Ras Doobie used to be. The new place is trying to uphold the tradition of fine Jamaican cuisine and doing a pretty good job of it. The whole fish is delicious, my scouts report, and coco bread is still on the menu. The Guinness ice cream is gone, but there is ginger wine. (I called to confirm.)

Caribbean Kitchen (353 N. Calvert St.), which our carryout expert, Sam Sessa, says had the best jerk chicken sub in town, has closed. It plans to relocate, but nothing is definite yet.

Finally, the Peacock Cafe in the Pier 5 Hotel has closed. I mention it because even though I and others gave it very positive reviews, nobody ever seemed to pay any attention to it.

The general manager of the hotel told me the hotel is looking for a tenant to lease the space. Right now it's being used as the hotel's breakfast area.

Send restaurant news, trends, questions of general interest or observations to me at elizabeth.large@baltsun.com or fax me at 410-783-2519. Snail mail works, too: Elizabeth Large, The Sun, Box 1377, Baltimore 21278.

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