Not revo­lu­tion­ary, but not blase ei­ther

Pat­ter­son Pub­lic House shows off char­ac­ter and fi­nesse

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

When Tanya Gralto and Scott Lan­phear bought Bistro Rx early this year (Gralto used to be a man­ager there), they clearly found the right pre­scrip­tion to trans­form that pub into an invit­ing new place called Pat­ter­son Pub­lic House.

Lo­cated across from Pat­ter­son Park, this cor­ner tav­ern ex­udes a mix of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and re­lax­ation in both decor and ser­vice. There may be noth­ing revo­lu­tion­ary about the food or drink, but there’s noth­ing blase, ei­ther.

A week­night meal proved both re­lax­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing. Help­ing with the re­lax­ation was the ex­pert server, who pro­vided all the in­for­ma­tion we needed, paced ev­ery­thing well and even in­dulged our piti­ful at­tempts at bon mots.

We started with the sim­plest of items — fries, which we or­dered as a pre-ap­pe­tizer. They ar­rived grease-free and meaty, with a sub­tle (per­haps too sub­tle) en­hance­ment from a sprin­kling of herbs. And for some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent on the side, there was a ro­bust beef-fat mayo for dip­ping (good old-fash­ioned ketchup was pro­vided, too).

Our ap­pe­tiz­ers in­cluded a par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing stone fruit toast — an as­sort­ment of plums (roasted and fresh), greens, crispy ham and whipped moz­zarella lightly coated in a vi­o­let mus­tard vinai­grette, all rest­ing on a cia­batta. A real charmer.

Mus­sels in a smoked squash broth re­vealed hearty char­ac­ter, aided by fen­nel, shal­lots, pick­led chili pep­pers and a blue crab but­ter. The house-cured salmon en­joyed el­e­gant sup­port from dev­iled eggs topped with trout roe, pick­led onion and dill.

The pub food por­tion of the menu in­cludes the ex­pected burger and wings, along with the best fish sand­wich I’ve had in ages. A bo­lillo roll was filled with flaky, lightly fried black bass. The fish would have im­pressed on its own, but popped with ad­di­tional fla­vor from a nicely bal­anced as­sem­blage of cab­bage, pea shoots, charred onion re­moulade and pick­led chilis.

The com­pact en­tree list held just three op­tions (meat, fowl, veg­e­tar­ian), a wise ap­proach, it seems to me, for a new tav­ern, al­low­ing the kitchen to keep the fo­cus tight.

The pan-roasted air­line chicken breast, moist and fla­vor­ful, picked up piz­zazz from gar­lic grits, grilled onions, sauteed greens and a sharp, smoky shishito-olive tape­nade that di­vided opin­ions at our table.

Find­ing to­tal fa­vor was the coulotte steak, which re­vealed abun­dant fla­vor and a good deal of ten­der­ness. Nearly steal­ing the spot­light from the beef were the roasted fin­ger­ling pota­toes, with crispy ex­te­ri­ors and fla­vor­ful in­sides. Wilted mus­tard greens com­pleted this very classy bistro dish.

The desserts — a crunchy, cookie-like “choco­late bar” and choco­late chip bread pud­ding — ful­filled their part of the meal ably.

As for the li­ba­tions, the wine list held some en­tic­ing, mostly un­der$45 op­tions; we set­tled on a very agree­able Span­ish red.

Like most spe­cialty cock­tails th­ese days, the ones at Pat­ter­son Pub­lic House tend to­ward the sug­ary and flow­ery. But we liked the Man­hat­tan vari­a­tion, with its maple-syrupy, yet not overly sweet, fin­ish.

The bar han­dled tra­di­tional mar­ti­nis firmly, though the one or­dered with a twist of lemon should not have had olives added. That’s the sec­ond time in as many weeks I’ve en­coun­tered such an aber­ra­tion in town. If this is a new trend, I hope some­one will nip it in the bud.

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