Fish Tacos, with avocado, mango Pico, spicy aioli, and Pacific… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
On a corner in Little Italy sits Pacific Coast Dining Company, a restaurant trying to bring multicultural cuisine to the heart of red sauce country. And aside from a few inventory issues on a recent trip there, it succeeds.
From its name, you might think Pacific Coast Dining Company sells cooking supplies. It's actually a romantic, modern-looking restaurant, with blue walls and azure accents in the bar and dining areas.
We were seated next to a windowed wall with a people-watching view of Eastern Avenue. The light bulbs in the ceiling fan above our table were blue, which in the beginning added to the dreamy feel of the dining area. Later, it made our food look Smurflike.
Pacific Coast's menu is a trip through a traveler's food diary. Dishes from Greece, Thailand, Italy and various parts of the United States keep company on the same page. Some of the owners are Greek, the restaurant is in little Italy, and a few dishes were just too popular to get rid of, our server explained. The waiter was also the bartender and gave us great service. He was attentive, informative and apologetic when many of the items on the drink and food menus were missing ingredients.
Half of the beers on Pacific Coast's list were unavailable, so I ordered a glass of the Hougue Riesling ($7). It was slightly sour with an aftertaste that suggested the bottle had been open for a while. I couldn't get halfway though it before switching drinks.
My companion ordered the organic cucumber martini ($10). Since the cucumber vodka that they regularly use was out, our server muddled cucumber and Ketel One vodka to create his own version. Sprinkled with salt and pepper, it tasted of fresh cucumber and was better than most pre-made vodkas.
The restaurant is owned by a group that used to run Hollywood Burger Bistro in Canton, and remembering how good Hollywood's wings were, we decided they were a must. We asked for an order of the Thai sweet chili wings ($10). Crispy and saucy, these fantastic wings were speckled with flakes of hot Thai chili. As delicious as they were, the blue cheese dressing just didn't belong. If it were swapped out with a citrus mayo instead, they just might be some of the best wings in Baltimore.
The lobster mac and cheese ($13) was a fine version of the upscale comfort food. Instead of macaroni, the restaurant used orecchiette, the small ear-shaped pasta, which cradled the creamy cheese sauce.
The sausage stack ($9), layers of fresh mozzarella and flattened sausage patties topped with a cashew pesto, was mediocre and could have benefited from a slice or two of tomato to replace the bland red pepper puree.
We ordered food from all three of the entree sections (steak & fish, Italian, burger) and were not let down. The Ron Burgundy burger ($13) was a wonderfully cooked certified Angus beef burger topped with bacon, brie and french fries. The cheese-covered fries soaked up the juice from the medium-rare burger, and while the bacon wasn't crunchy, it still added saltiness to the toppings. We had no idea what the burger's name (Will Ferrell's character in the film "Anchorman") has to do with the ingredients, but after a few bites, we didn't care.
Cioppino ($28) was served in a garish, sea shell-shaped bowl that made it difficult to eat, but it had an abundance of shrimp, calamari, scallops and mussels. The mussels in particular were excellent, and the chunky marinara that covered the seafood was spicy basil-scented. The only bad thing about this dish is that it came with no bread for sauce-mopping.
The fish tacos ($14) were the night's best dish. These three ridiculously full rockfish tacos were enough to stuff one person and still have ample leftovers. The breaded fish held up to lettuce, mango, tomato and two kinds of cheese. The tacos were squirted with a little chipotle cream sauce and came with a side of buffalo sauce and bloody mary mix. While the buffalo sauce was unnecessary, the bloody mary mix lent a nice fruitiness while the chipotle sauce (which should come in a ramekin of its own) had a mouth-burning fieriness.
Like half the beers on the beverage menu, some wines and the fried green tomato dishes, most of the desserts were out the night we went. A gigantic slice of baklava ($6) could have fed four and was sweet and spiced nicely, but was tough and hard to cut.
Even after the multiple absences of menu items and unfocused cuisine, Pacific Coast Dining Company served surprisingly good fare. Go there with an open mind — and hope they have what you order.
Pacific Coast Dining Company
Back story: A new restaurant in Little Italy, Pacific Coast Dining Company is trying to bring a multicuisine menu to the area.
Parking: There isn't much street parking in Little Italy, so either pray to the parking gods or head to one of the area's many garages.
Signature dish: The three rockfish tacos were enough to stuff one person and still have ample leftovers. The breaded fish held up to lettuce, mango, tomato and two kinds of cheese, and the tacos were squirted with a little chipotle cream sauce. Yum.
Where: 902 Eastern Ave., Baltimore
Contact: 410-244-1185, paccoastdining.com
Open: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday
Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
Appetizers: $6 -$13
[Key: Excellent: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]