Shiso Tavern

Sisho Tavern, Baltimore, MD

There has been a trend in my restaurant visits as of late – more frequent visits to the suburban ones and an avoidance for dreaded Washington D.C. with all its logistic and parking issues that tend to ward off the suburbanite for a nightout in town.  With that in mind I recently saw an online offer for an eatery in Baltimore, and I decided to give it try, giving me an excuse to ventur off the well-beaten path and hoping to find new sites.  Located near the Baltimore Harbor, Shiso Tavern sits in Canton, a rather quaint neighborhood that has a couple blocks chocked with gunshot-style row houses that have been converted into rather trendy eating establishments.  Touted as an Asian-Fusion/Japanese restaurant, I took my seat by the light-flooding window area during lunch recently.

Sushi Nacho - Sisho Tavern, Baltimore, MD

Sushi Nacho - Sisho Tavern, Baltimore, MDOnline reviewers suggested to start with the Sushi Nachos.  What arrived was a trio of small bites, consisting of fried wanton skin, seared tuna, avocado, salmon tataki, and dressed with a spicy mayo.  The wanton skin was a nice touch instead of the regular nacho chip which added a flakier and more delicate feel to the bite.  The tuna and salmon were clean tasting, perhaps a bit too clean with no distinctive seasoning added except for a bit of spiciness on the tuna sear – but I wanted more to enhance their mild flavors.  The mayo added the spiciness as written on the menu, but it overwhelmed the mild fish flavors.  Perhaps some citrusy flavors (yuzu?) would have taken these up another notch and would have made them more successful.  Overall, it was not a bad opener.

Ramen Bowl - Sisho Tavern, Baltimore, MD

Many online suggested the Ramen Bowl and it was a photo of it in the online offer that tempted me at first.  The bowl arrived as shown: a mound of noodles covered with beansprouts, a boiled egg, shredded pork butt, slabs of pork belly, and a garnishing of red chilies and green onions.  The noodles were a bit overcooked for my taste (al dente is not just an Italian preference, but a Japanese one too), the egg beautifully boiled as it oozed out its barely cooked yolk into the soup, the pork butt moist and well seasoned with its slight fatty unctuousness, echoed by the same qualities found in the pork belly with its crispy exterior and savory inside, and the red chili added a fresh mild zing to the bowl along with its vegetal pepper note.  Ultimately, it has to be the broth that steals the prize.  The version here had a mild sweetness from the use of chicken to make the stock, and a slightly smoky sour note from the use of smoked pork.  Although it was not the usual traditional ramen bowl, I was thoroughly enjoying all the above qualities (sans slightly overcooked noodles) and I nearly sipped on the broth until its last drop.  I would say this bowl is worth coming back for.

Mochi Ice-cream - Sisho Tavern, Baltimore, MD

Mochi Ice-cream - Sisho Tavern, Baltimore, MD

My waitress told me that I had some credit left on the offer, and so, I ordered something sweet to end the meal.  Initially, I was honing in on the Jasmine Tea White Chocolate Tart, but, since they were out of it, I chose the Mochi Sampler.  What arrived was a dish on par with Japanese culinary aesthetic with the mochi ice-cream balls sliced and beautifully fanned on the plate.  The ice-cream flavors comprised of vanilla, which tasted like it should, strawberry, a bit fruity but artificial, and mango, which tasted totally artificial and candy-like to these well-conditioned Southeast Asian taste buds. But it was the stretchy glutinous rice dough around the frozen bites that impressed me with its smooth and gummy texture that I expect from a good mochi.  Not always one for desserts (and also on a slight diet), I passed the rest on to another diner who seemed to be transfixed by these cold bites.

Sisho Tavern, Baltimore, MD

Shiso Tavern is rather nice find.  It is a quaint place with little pretense and its food does not steer too far away as it maintains respect for culinary tradition.  The Sushi Nacho was quite tasty with the different textures and flavors coupled with the fresh seafood, the Ramen Bowl a savory and satisfactory sip that was full of flavors and porcine heavenliness, and the Mochi Sampler that was quite a treat with that elastic dough surrounding some funky ice-cream.  I think that Canton is a delightful find, away from challenging Washington D.C. or downtown Baltimore, and I know I will heading up to this area more often in the near future.

Shiso Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bertha’s Restaurant

Bertha's Restaurant

After a couple of weeks of frigid Artic weather (read “Polar Vortex”), balmy weather made its way into the area, warm enough for one to think it was some kind of heat wave, albeit only in the 50’s – so much for the law of relativity. My regular dinner mates decided to invite me as well as a Chinese friend visiting from Germany to Fell’s Point, Baltimore to have a quick lunch at a much talked about place, Bertha’s. I was looking forward to it for a bowlful of mussels fueled by hype created by its propaganda seen on some bumper stickers.

Maryland Crab SoupWalking into the establishment, one notices that the place is divided into two, a bar and a restaurant. The dark wood-paneled walls exude a character that bespeaks of history, stories, and many nights of sorrow drowning. The dining room is dimly lit and I was lucky to be seated by a recently vacated table near the window. To start the meal off, I decided to have a bowl of Maryland Crab Soup, perhaps trying to defrost from the week’s subzero temperatures. However, what arrived was a bowl of creamy soup with chunks of fish fillet. I notified the waitress the mistake and my friend decided to pick up that bowl instead. When the correct soup arrived, it was quite a disappointment. I was fishing (no pun intended) for pieces of crabmeat that were miniscule and overcooked, overtaken by large pieces of cabbage and vegetables, that turned this bowlful pretty much into a tomato-based veggie soup. Watching my friend enjoying his Fish Chowder stirred a bit of envy in this dissatisfied customer, and I wished I had not changed the bowl. But I still had some hope for what was to come.

Broiled Shrimp in Garlic Butter

The visiting guest decided to order Broiled Shrimp in Garlic Butter. A plate filled with pieces of shrimp arrived on top of a bed of rice, covered by a douse of garlic butter. The pieces of shellfish were quite large, butterflied, and cooked a bit tough, tasting slightly pungent from the slightly raw tasting garlic. The bed of plain white rice was not exactly the most enhancing  accompaniment to this dish, for more seasoning would have balanced out the dish better.

Chicken BartholomewAnother friend’s order was Chicken Bartholomew since he was put on a strict diet by doctor’s order. Pieces of poached chicken were paired with peach slices and spinach leaves, sitting on a bed of white rice. But what really tied these disparate elements together was a chilled creamy lemon-garlic sauce that lent a tangy, creamy, and garlic pungency to the healthy mix. My friend seemed very satisfied by this dish despite the drastic measures that he was taking with his meal choices.

Mussel Dip Sauces

A bowl of MusselsOK, Mussels is what this place is known for.  Since the place offers a myriad of dipping sauces to go along with them, I could not make up my mind, and I decided to go with Mussels with Assorted Sauces. The bivalves came as a mound sitting on a wide bowl accompanied with a variety of these sauces: Garlic, Butter and Capers; Spinach, Tarragon, and Garlic Butter; Spanish Sauce; Anchovy, Tomato and Garlic; and Lancaster Creamy Mustard Sauce. The mussels were not too big, and they tasted fresh and rather plump, without being overcooked or stringy. My favorite dips were the one with capers with its buttery brininess, the Spanish with its fresh tomato flavor, the Anchovy with its slight ocean saltiness, and the mustard sauce with its rich and tangy qualities. This is the dish that place is known for and deservedly so.

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Bertha's RestaurantWhen heading to the Baltimore area, you should stop by Bertha’s at Fell’s Point area, serving a myriad of seafood dishes. The crab soup may not be a hit, but go for the fish chowder which was the day’s special. The Broiled Shrimp and Chicken Bartholomew were fairly good dishes despite being a bit pricey. But the Mussels are a must order in this house, especially with the different sauces offered along with it.  When in Baltimore, eat Bertha’s Mussels, as their green bumper sticker incessantly reminds you on the highway.

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