The view at Waterfront Kitchen is stunning. It may be the best vantage point along the harbor. Expansive windows showcase the water, boats, cityscape, and Baltimore’s iconic Domino Sugars and Tide Point signs. Even our waitress says that when she has a free moment, she relaxes by looking out at the postcard scene from the west Fells Point location.
Jerry Pellegrino, Waterfront’s consulting chef and former owner of the now closed Corks in Federal Hill, has recreated himself in this plush dining room designed by Patrick Sutton. The setting combines functionality and comfort with a use of luxurious materials. The fabric-covered, sectioned walls; roped, globe lighting; beamed wood ceiling; and cylindrical mirrors are subtly reminiscent of an elegant cruise liner, though you would by no means call it nautical. There’s not a fisherman’s net nor stuffed shark in sight.
The restaurant has another mission, too. Owners Charles Nabit and Michael Klein have partnered with the Living Classrooms Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides educational opportunities to inner-city youth. Waterfront Kitchen is located in one of its buildings at the end of Thames Street. The proximity gives the staff an opportunity to work with the group’s BUGS (Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students) program. In the summer, much of the restaurant’s produce will come from the students’ gardens.
The use of local fruits and vegetables fits right into Waterfront’s “seed-to-table” philosophy, which is translated by chef de cuisine Levi Briggs. He does the kitchen’s everyday heavy lifting with his classically prepared plates that rely on seasonal and locally grown products.
On our visit, the Chincoteague oyster stew was laden with succulent oysters in a luxurious milky broth. Another starter, a four-ounce Maryland crab cake, was plump with jumbo lump and perched atop a swirl of wilted Swiss chard with a pool of lemon vin blanc. The house-made charcuterie caught our eye, too.
The meat tray featured a slice of country pork pâté as thick as a deck of cards, two boudin blanc (white sausage) links, and a dish of puréed chicken liver sealed with a thin layer of goose-based mousse, along with pickled vegetables, a dab of whole-grain mustard, and toasted baguette slices. Oh, it was a charmer. It’s too bad the food’s chilly temperature detracted from the delicious flavors.
Besides that slip, the rest of the meal was near perfect. The entrees were beautifully presented. The herb-roasted Springfield Farm half chicken proved once again that poultry is a restaurant treat these days. The crispy-skinned bird brought back memories of family Sunday dinners with garlic roasted potatoes and pan gravy.
The roasted Maryland rockfish was fork tender and taken to another level with sweet caramelized cipollini onions. A subtle black-truffle jus was an enhancement, too. The dish was also served with roasted Yukon Gold potatoes.
These main dishes don’t include a green vegetable, though. If you want one, it costs $6 extra—not that they aren’t worth it. The lightly creamed fresh spinach and Brussels sprouts sautéed with bacon were quite good. But the extra charge can quickly boost the price of a meal. For instance, the fish seemed reasonable for a fine-dining restaurant at $26. Add a side, though, and now you’re paying $32.
We also ordered a veal T-bone steak ($32)—juicy and wonderful—from the menu’s grill section. It, thankfully, included two sides, but you might be tempted by the $10 toppings—Hudson Valley foie gras or crab imperial—and $2 sauces to dress up your meat or seafood.
Desserts are definitely worth the splurge. For anyone who took a lunchbox to school, the Ho Ho will be immediately appealing. It looks just like a Hostess cupcake with a cursive loop of white chocolate strung across the chocolate icing that tops a devil’s food cake. There’s also white-chocolate mousse inside. If that’s not enough, a chocolate tuile as big as a CD is on the plate, too.
The apple-molasses cake was a fine finish. The rich, moist cake comes with a pile of roasted-apple slices, sabayon sauce, and Taharka Brothers salted caramel ice cream.
In warmer weather, there is an outdoor deck for dining. It’s going to be a great place to savor the breezes.
Our waitress, who was pleasant and helpful with our questions, said the restaurant hadn’t been discovered yet. Once it is, we’re pretty sure a table is going to be hard to nab. There’s not a bad seat in the house.