Tapas is a wonderful concept for someone like me. Someone who likes to try lots of different dishes but doesn’t have the financing or the room in my waistline to order everything that looks tasty. Someone who will take food right off other dining companions’ plates. Someone who has trouble making up their mind about what to order. I sure hope the tapas concept hasn’t jumped the shark. Knowing that the place turns nightclubesque in the late evening, I had considered Pazo for after dinner drinks but upgraded it to “dinner” status after reviewing the menu. Lots of small plates featuring seafood with a Mediterranean influence.
I was told by a local that Pazo is the place to go if you want to “see and be seen”. Well I don’t know about you, but I wanted to do both! One issue was the negative attention I would likely receive if I carried my Canon Rebel into the restaurant. You see, it didn’t quite fit into my hot pink clutch. Hell, my iPhone only fit in there if I slanted it at just the right angle. So, reader beware: blurry iPhone pictures ahead.
Located near Fell’s Point, Pazo is a swanky, modern-looking converted warehouse. There are communal tables, some with sofa seating, on the first floor. I was happy to be led up the stairs to the second level which was essentially a balcony that wrapped the large space, allowing for a great view of all the pretty people below. I was not so happy that the two-top next to mine was only inches away. It sort of seemed like a blind date. Luckily my blind date was a very friendly couple with whom I enjoyed chatting. Until the food began to arrive and then I was all business.
Small Plate #1: Potato Croquetas, $6. I am not taking responsibility for ordering this dish. My dining companion chose it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. As I am sure you can clearly see from the not-so-clear photograph, the croquetas are six small balls of fluffy mashed potatoes which are coated and deep fried. Sure they tasted good, but how can you fail with any combination of potato and 350-degree oil? That’s something even my dad would eat. (But I suppose you do need a couple of those “safe” dishes on the menu, huh?)
Small plate #2: Goat’s Cheese Empanadas, $6. Okay. Goat cheese is another one of those ingredients that I am drawn to order no matter the menu description of the dish. Goat cheese with calf liver? I’ll take it. Egg, pickle and goat cheese panini? Sure, I’ll try it. Thank goodness Pazo’s empanadas were much more delicious than those crazy dishes. The empanada pastry was lighter than I expected. The filling tasted like pure goat cheese to me so I am not convinced they added any other ingredients. Hot, melty goat cheese inside a home of flaky crust is a crowd-pleaser and it pleased me. There was a dipping sauce but since I like to choke things down dry, I didn’t even wave my empanada over it for fear a few molecules would adhere.
Small plate #3: Zucchini Blossoms, $9. This was my favorite dish of the evening. I LOVED these delicate squash blossoms coated in a light tempura batter and subsequently deep-fried. The baby squashes were attached to the blossoms and they were oh, so tender. I wish I had some more right this minute. The long, skinny onion-ringy looking thing on the plate is, in fact, NOT an onion ring or onion string. It is a length of Meyer lemon peel coated and fried with the same tempura batter. I cut a piece of lemon, cut a piece of squash and ate them together in one bite. Heavenly. I am going to have to try that at home. (Note my cute hot pink clutch in the upper lefthand corner of the above blurry iPhone photo – definitely too small to fit a digital SLR.)
Has anyone noticed that, so far, every dish has been fried? I promise I will choose something healthier next.
Small plate #4: Lobster Pintxo with Pimenton Sauce, $9. #3 was my fave and #4 was a FAIL. It was a great idea poorly executed. The lobster was overcooked. It was tough and chewy. It reminded me of the subpar lobster I had at Aubrey’s this past December. I just don’t have anything else to say about that dish because once the lobster is overdone it doesn’t matter if the sauce was great or if the vegetables were super fresh.
Small plate #5: Sea Scallops with Fennel Puree, $8. The scallops were small, but nicely cooked. I love the buttery mouthfeel and the seared exterior. I could have eaten a vat of those little morsels. But alas, there were only four. So I stabbed my friend with a fork so I could eat three of them myself. I really didn’t get a lot of fennel flavor out of the sauce, though. If the menu had not identified it as fennel, I would not have guessed it.
Small plate #6: Tuna tartare, $8. As you would expect, this was a light and refreshing plate. I enjoyed the combination of the tuna with the cilantro and black sesame seeds. I have heard vicious rumors that there are some people out there in the world who don’t care for cilantro. Shame on you, whoever you are. I forgot to mention that every table has a small basket of savory but sweet sunflower seed crackers. They are quite good and I imagine they would have tasted good with the tuna but I had already ate them all.
Service at Pazo was impressive, as was the case at every restaurant I visited in Baltimore. Professional, friendly waitstaff who were very knowledgeable about the menus.
Even though the food seemed more impressive on the menu than on the palate, I truly enjoyed my experience at Pazo. It’s a fun, energetic restaurant that brings people together to share food and conversation. THREE FORKS.Pazo 1425 Aliceanna Street
Baltimore, MD 21231