Small plates are big at Ranazul


October 10, 2007|By ELIZABETH LARGE

At a time when some places are moving away from tapas back to more traditional menus, the new Ranazul (8171 Maple Lawn Blvd., 301-498-9666) in Maple Lawn has embraced the concept wholeheartedly.

"An international fusion kind of thing" is how Chad Price, the restaurant's marketing director, described the cuisine behind the small plates. That means Salmon-Avocado Sushi (sliced salmon with Chinese mustard and seasoned avocado on a bed of seaweed salad) as well as Arepas (corn cake with crab, shrimp and tomato ragout).

There are 15 to 20 of these small plates offered on any given day, along with five sandwiches at lunch and five entrees at dinner. Wine is important here, with an international list of 180 bottles as well as 15 wines by the glass. If you buy $1,000 worth of wine, you can have your own wine locker with a nameplate.

Ranazul is set up as a tavern, Price said, which means it has a dining room, a bistro section, two lounge areas and a bar with seating for about 170. On the other hand, he describes the decor as art nouveau, which doesn't sound very tavernlike.

Ranazul is open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Rock 'n' roll sushi --Baltimore has lots of places where you can experience the Zen of sushi, but not until Minato reopened did we have an example of hip sushi. Well, hold on to your hats. When Ra Sushi opens at 701 S. Eden St. (target date: February), you'll see how the West Coast has ratcheted it up another notch.

When I asked vice president Scott Kirkpatrick how Ra, an Arizona-based chain, is different from other sushi bars, he said "concept and atmosphere." Music is a big part of the experience.

"It's energy in addition to great-quality sushi," he said.

Although it's a restaurant first, he said, about 35 percent of sales are drinks, higher than your usual sushi bar.

The slogan is "It's more fun in the Ra." Enough said.

Thai another one on --Brilliant. What's every American's favorite Thai dish? Pad Thai, of course. So why not just name your restaurant that and get it over with? That's exactly what has happened with Pad Thai (38 West St., 410-280-6636), which opened in Annapolis a couple of weeks ago.

Its menu is bigger than the Manhattan phone book, and prices are remarkably low. There are no gimmicks here. Pad Thai delivers traditional Thai cuisine - done well from the early reports I've been getting.

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

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