Does anyone else have a mental list of restaurants that you’re meaning to try, but just can’t seem to get around to? Baltimore is a really up and coming restaurant town, so there are lots of interesting places around town to try out. But most often, we end up doing what is familiar and easy, because we know we will like what we get!
But when Noel suggested we try out a new place this week since it’s Baltimore Summer Restaurant week, and therefore a relatively low risk (and cost) way to sample a new restaurant, I went for it. And suggested that we try out a place that had been on my list for a long time, Vino Rosina in Harbor East. In theory, Vino Rosina should be just my sort of place. It’s a wine bar, in one of my favorite parts of town and it has great buzz, being named to several best restaurant lists. But I had also heard it was very pricey, which I think is what kept us away.
But on Monday night we ventured in, took our best shot at the tasting menus, and ordered a few drinks off their fantastic and very diverse wine and beer menus. Overall, it was a positive experience, albeit with a few places we thought could be better.
First up, drinks! I’m a big wine drinker (as you all know) and I was delighted by the length and diversity of Vino Rosina’s wine list. Vino Rosina offers their by the glass wines in 3 and 6 oz pours, and the quality of their by the glass selection was better than most restaurants around town. They have a huge bottle list, including some hard to find items from smaller producers, and I’m actually looking forward to coming back with friends so we can partake. I opted to order a flight of roses, which was really good–no sickly sweet wine here!
Noel was surprised at the size and selection of the beer list, with many taps and an interested selection in bottles.
Soon after our drinks arrived our first course was out–a flatbread for me, a salad for Noel. Restaurant week menus are all prix fixe, and you typically order everything at once, so our courses were well timed coming out of the kitchen. I thought Noel’s salad was the winner on this course–it was a roasted peach salad with endive, marscapone, walnuts and a lemon vinagarette. I thought the marscapone was an interesting choice, and it really set off the peaches in the salad.
My flatbread, which was topped with pork shoulder, pomegranate barbeque sauce and sauced pineapples was okay, but it’s was almost cold in spots and sort of just tasted like a hawaiian pizza.
For our second course, Noel ordered the pork belly tacos and I had the mahi-mahi. Here Noel’s course was the clear winner. The pork belly really stood out in the tacos, with the fat melting in your mouth and providing a really nice contrast to the fresh napa cabbage slaw.
The mahi-mahi was good, but sort of bland. I’m not a big spice person, but even I thought that the fish could have used a dash of salt and pepper to kick it up a notch. The buerre blanc sauce was good, but not extraordinary.
Our third and final course was dessert. I had read rave reviews of Vino Rosina’s dessert, especially the bread pudding, so I ordered the blueberry version on the menu. Noel ordered the chocolate lava cake with salted pretzel ice cream. The bread pudding was fantastic, probably some of the best I’ve ever had. The rum flavor was there, without being overpowering, and the blueberries were amazingly flavorful.
Noel’s dessert was also very good, with the salted pretzel ice cream one of the most inventive (while still tasty) flavors I’ve ever had. Seriously, I wished we had a whole lot more of that!
Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Vino Rosina, and I think we would like to go back. It’s hard to know if some of the things we didn’t love were a result of restaurant week, so it deserves another shot in the food category. And I need another date with that wine list!!