Saturday, February 07, 2009

Baltimore Restaurant Week: Sotto Sopra

Lots of restaurants have long waits. That said, there is a difference between a restaurant that knows how to treat its customers when they have to wait for a table, and one that does not. Sotto Sopra, which I've written about before, is in the former category. They know how to treat people in order to keep them coming back, instead of causing them to tell their friends the many reasons why they should not darken their doorstep again (**COUGH-GRILL-ART-CAFE-COUGH**).

Given a backup in reservations that lasts almost an hour, a restaurant that knows how to treat its customers will set you at the bar, even give you a complimentary drink. A restaurant that does not know how to treat its customers will sometimes seat you immediately if they can, and then let you sit for an hour before being helped (remind you of any other Restaurant Week experiences?). Sotto Sopra is, again, in that former category. They know what they are doing. Perhaps that's why there were so many people waiting last night. There were so many people who wanted to eat there, so the owner knows how to treat them if he wants them to come back.

I really can't sing the priases of Sotto Sopra enough. It's a lovely place with lovely food. But before last night, I had had little exposure to its typical menu, having come only once for its "authentic Sardinian Tuesday" (the next one is this Tuesday). Last night, Cathy and I headed in with reservations at 8:00 - and found out we'd be seated around, oh, 8:30, 9 o'clock, solely due to a backup in reservations. So the owner sent us to the bar, where Cathy had a diet soda and I got an Italian amber. Italy is not exactly known for its beers, and the Peroni Nastro Azzurro that I ordered was, well... I've had more robust beers. But ambers aren't supposed to be "robust" and it was a light and crisp beer, but I guess I prefer the darker stuff. Since the wait got to be even longer, we were given a second drink at the bar on-the-house! Cathy had a nice rosé and I got a Chianti. Yes, I usually prefer beer to wine, but my glass of Chianti was much better than the Peroni.

It did take a while to get our food, but again, we got complimentary foccaccia with goat cheese in olive oil (mmmm), which abated the wait. It helped that the foccaccia was tasty.

Sotto Sopra only offered its Restaurant Week menu last night. For the first of our three courses, I got a sizable plate of tender mussels in a thin but tangy tomato basil broth, while Cathy got the polenta with mushrooms. Both were good (yes, we tasted each other's dishes, of course). The polenta was mellow and cheesy, and I would get either again.

Our secondi piatti were a little more mixed. I ordered a cocoa foiade - cocoa noodles with crawfish and mushrooms in a cream sauce. No, I wasn't expecting a dessert pasta, but I had expected a stronger cocoa flavor. The noodles were good in the cream sauce, but they had more of a mellow mushroom flavor that seemed to overpower the cocoa. Added to that were the relatively small bits of crawfish. So it was good, but I'd sooner order what Cathy got: a peppercorn-encrusted salmon on a bad of mashed potatoes with an asparagus cream sauce underneath. The few bites I had were a wonderful mix of flavors, and given the chance I would go back and order that instead.

Our desserts were what originally drew Cathy to Sotto Sopra in the first place. At the Great Tastes Expo, she had the good fortune to try some of their tiramisù. I don't know if it was her favorite part of the meal, but she loved it all the same. So did I. But whenever I see crème brûlée on any dessert menu, I automatically have to get it. That's why I ordered the espresso crème brûlée, which was not only delicious but gave me a little jolt of caffeine.

Altogether, it was the typical restaurant week price of $30.09 per person plus tax, amouting to $63 (we bought the soda and beer separately, and our glasses of wine were on the house). We left a nice tip and headed out, satisfied by this end to an unusually long Restaurant Week. Not long for me, but long anyway. I hope they extend it a week for the summer, too! Especially restaurants like Sotto Sopra, which really know how to treat their customers right.


theminx said...

Thanks for trying the cocoa foiade - I was curious about it and couldn't make it to SS for Restaurant Week. :)

diningdish said...

So glad you had a good time at Sotto Sopra. Glad you choose to go their restaurant week. They really try to put it out there for people to really taste the food they prepare - a good cross section.

John said...

Yeah, the cocoa pasta was okay. I'd be fine eating it again, but I'd order other things before I ordered that.

It was pretty lovely there the other night. Very reliable service.