Howard Magazine - Page 19 - Good Eats By Tim Smith (2)

Howard Magazine
- Page 19
Good Eats By Tim Smith (2)

ers. Other niceties occurred throughout the evening, reinforcing our impression that management at Mad Chef takes customer relations seriously.

 

The kitchen certainly takes food seriously. Course by course, our happy little band encountered imaginative textures and flavors, along with stylish presentations. Long before the end of the meal, we talked about returning.

 

Having established the bar’s credibility with a muscular-strength (but skimpy in amount) martini and a well-structured, orange-y Manhattan, we dove into the small plates.

 

The Sardinian fonduta — an Italian take on fondue — oozed zesty character from melted provolone, orange honey and almonds (the crisp, rustic bread slices for dipping were treats in themselves). Beef empanadas hit high notes, lifted by a kicky salsa roja, caramelized onions and lime crema.

 

Stealing the show, appetizer-wise, were the Korean barbecue lamb ribs, vigorously spiced and so tender they were almost feathery. Our main course included a seafood pot. This generously stocked stew of clam, lobster, mussel, scallop and shrimp boasted a vivid tomato-based sauce. Served with delectable grilled bread, this dish would be even more fun in dark, cold midwinter.

 

The veal entree, arrayed on a large wooden plate, was expertly prepared schnitzel-style, the breading light and airy, the meat fork-tender. An elegant salad of mozzarella, campari tomatoes and arugula provided fine balance.

 

A list of sandwich fare (dubbed “handhelds”) contained something we found terribly tempting, even as visions of bad cholesterol cavorted in our heads. The “fifty-fifty burger” is a house-made blend of beef and bacon, fortified with provolone, arugula and bourbon-infused onion jam. It tasted of pure decadence, and we couldn’t get enough of it.

 

The kitchen’s standard version of fries comes seasoned with Old Bay and malt vinegar, but, figuring the burger would deliver plenty of flavor on its own, we subbed in plain fries and found them spot-on.

 

Only in the name of duty could I face dessert, but it proved all too easy to dig into a basket of zeppole, a fried delight somewhat like doughnut holes. The puffs arrived wonderfully hot, subtly dusted with sugar and cinnamon, and supported on the side by a thick, luscious spread of Nutella.

 

Making the evening all the more enjoyable was our stellar server, as informative as she was engaging. We were impressed by how smoothly the likewise charming back waiter fulfilled his duties, too — one more example of how little things mean a lot.