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Hotel Sweet

The latest restaurant at the Colonnade has its ups and downs


Sam Holden

Alizée

Phone:443-449-6200
Address:4 W. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

More on Alizée.

By Mary K. Zajac | Posted 5/27/2009

And then there was Alizée (4 W. University Pkwy., [443] 449-6200). Not the cognac-based liqueur (that's merely a single "e"), but restaurateur Joe Chen's north Baltimore, self-proclaimed "boutique bistro and wine bar." Post-Spice Company, post-Four West, and post-Polo Grill, Alizée inhabits the Colonnade dressed up in lipstick red walls and leopard skin carpet. With its snug booths and linen-topped tables, it feels clubby and a little dated despite its attempts to be modern, and on the night we visited the dining room was peopled with a Hopkins prof hosting colleagues, an undergrad in sundress and heels dining with her parents, and blue-blazered men who held court about their wine cellars and the Clintons.

Plates, large and small, are similarly turned out--dressy and stylized. A soft shell wobbles atop a giant crab cake like a church lady's hat in "fusion crab duet," sushi that goes by the moniker "fushi," and just about every plate sports a squiggle of sauce. But like the less fussy, more staid faux library-cum-fireplace lounge that joins together the two halves of the restaurant, Alizée's mostly Asian-fusion menu is bound together with a few dishes more bistro--roast chicken, NY strip steak--than boutique.

I would revisit Alizée for the roasted chicken B.L.T ($22) alone--or at least for the savory risotto studded with melting bits of bacon, lettuce, and tomato, that formed a bed for the petite, but juicy half chicken. This may not remain on the menu through the summer season--it's really more of a cool weather, comfort food dish--but it's a pleaser all the same, as were the fragrant Thai mussels ($12), though I wish the shellfish had been sweeter and plumper. The delicate sauce of lemon grass, coconut, lime leaves, and spicy Thai basil deserved better.

Alizée lost its original chef, Joshau Hill, recently, and that may account for the unevenness of some of the other dishes on the menu. Fresh mozzarella and pineapple ($11), a small plate, promised a marriage of sweet and salty, but thick slices of chewy prosciutto rather than the promised shaved meat, marred the texture and blunted the flavor of the dish. A large plate of Asiatique tuna au poivre ($27), requested medium rare, arrived so rare you could hear the knife slicing through the raw fish to the tepid center. The server returned it to the kitchen without protest, but when the fish reappeared, it was overdone and overwhelmed by its peppery coat. Still, the grilled bok choy and crispy lotus root that accompanied the entrée showed the promise of the whole plate. The same could be said for the sesame crusted sea bass ($30) whose fresh tangle of fennel, citrus, ginger, and pineapple spiked happy rice enlivened what can be a firm, but bland, slab of fish.

Fushi, aka "fusion sushi," comes raw and cooked, and the spicy salmon and eel roll ($14) was the latter, a competent rendering of a western-style roll filled with smoked salmon, cream cheese, asparagus, but not so much eel. Preferable was the watermelon tuna tartare (a small plate for $13), small chunks of tender raw tuna spiked with mint and grapefruit and molded into a small timbale which proved that sometimes raw is what you want.

Alizée's fusion flare extends to desserts, and the cardamom-scented chocolate crème brulee ($8) is a keeper, especially with its candied orange peel garnish (it shares a plate with a fine vanilla counterpart and a sprinkle of raspberries). But a trio of frozen mousses ($8) in pineapple, coconut, and lychee resembled shaving cream in both texture and flavor.

The Colonnade is now owned by the Doubletree, but Alizée gives the impression of a special occasion restaurant rather than a simple hotel eatery. One suspects, however, that with its proximity to campus, it will be more of a destination for the customers we observed the night we dined: hotel guests, Hopkins' visitors and parents looking for a nearby dinner out and who won't blanch at paying $14 and upward for a sushi, er, fushi, roll.

Alizee is open daily for dinner. Fushi? freerange@citypaper.com

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