A new Asian restaurant named Tatu opened Friday in the Power Plant Live! space most recently occupied by Blue Sea Grill. The menu here includes sushi and what the restaurant calls "Hunan, Szechuan, Mandarin and Chinois classics." This is the second Tatu — the first is in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.'s, Seminole Hard Rock Casino — and this marks the area debut of the CB5, a Connecticut-based "boutique restaurant development group," with a portfolio of projects and collaborations, including several with the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., the developer of Power Plant.
One of the things that almost always goes wrong in Baltimore is an attempt at high style. Tsunami got everything wrong that it could. But talking to Jody Pennette, the founder of CB5, is a confidence builder. He not only seems to understand the problems that many diners encounter in big-style restaurants — is this a lounge with a kitchen? — but how to find the right balance for each project. "We've found that there's a special balance in entertainment dining and that some people pump up the volume too much. It's hard to build a relationship with the guest if the atmosphere is intimidating or overwhelming."
Tatu is intended not as a late-night final destination but more as an evening starter, with the expectation that guests will move on to one of the dozens of bars within walking distance. "It's designed to light the fuse on your evening, but we have no plans to turn this into a club," says Pennette. "Tatu has no intention of being an all-night destination."
Style is definitely a part of the package here, but Pennette talks about how important the balance is: "People recognize that dining can be funny, spirited and sexy without sacrificing the quality of food."
Pennette is fun to talk to because he articulates perfectly the fuzzy ideas in your own head, making you feel smart for having them.
The menu is fun and features the now-typical mix of attractively priced entees and dangerously priced appetizers and cocktails. I fall for it every time. For the next month or so, Tatu will be keeping to a Thursday through Saturday evening schedule. Tatu's is at 614 Water St.; the phone number is 410-244-7385.
Market Makeover Speaking of style, the Wine Market is getting a comprehensive makeover, which will include handcrafted glass lighting, a custom-built wine wall feature and what the restaurant's owner, Chris Spann, calls a "more cohesive color scheme that retains respect for the origins of the building."
The renovations, which are being handled by Chuck Patterson of SMG Architects, have mostly been taking place after business hours, but the Wine Market will close this Monday and Tuesday to apply the finishing touches. The new restaurant space will be unveiled on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
Along with the new appearance, the Wine Market has recently brought on Lucien Walsh as its wine director.
Spann is one of the few restaurant owners to contact me in the aftermath of a review. He's also fun to talk to, because he presents a viewpoint that a restaurant reviewer doesn't always consider. So when I whined in print about the pre-renovation atmosphere at his restaurant, Spann reminded me that restaurant owners don't always have the resources to apply, even when they'd like to.
"We started out as a mom-and-pop, thrived over the years and became more sophisticated," he says. "This is just another step in trying to put together a more complete package, not just top-notch food but an environment that lives up to its cuisine."
The Wine Market is located at 921 E. Fort Ave.; the phone number is 410-244-6166, and the website is the-wine-market.com.