Piled high on a bed of greens, the calamari were lightly breaded and fried to a tender, not rubbery, texture. The squid itself was standard, but an accompanying miso lime aioli was a nice surprise. Tangy and creamy, it was a tasty alternative to marinara.

From the time we walked into Tatu until the moment we ordered dessert, our service was spot on. A friendly waitress kept our drinks filled and delivered food promptly, and a manager checked on us occasionally.

But once we ordered dessert, things slowed down. After several water refills and a few "it'll be right out" messages from the staff, our dessert — the banana macadamia spring roll ($12) finally arrived.

Pastry-wrapped banana and cheesecake were deep-fried, then carefully plated with a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream and a few squares of macadamia brittle. The dish was sweet, tart, crunchy and big enough for at least four people.

After so many small plates, the oversize dessert was a shock. But it made sense. Even with all its mood lighting and swanky decor, Tatu is more than just a place to be seen.

It's a place to be with other people. To share — small plates, dessert or just conversation.


Back story: Opened in Power Plant Live in 2010, Tatu just underwent a renovation, opening up walls and replacing traditional dining tables with low-slung furniture, giving the space more of a lounge feel. The pan-Asian menu was tweaked, as well, shifting its focus from entrees to smaller plates designed for sharing.

Parking: Street parking; Pier V Garage on East Pratt Street

Signature dish: The hamachi carpaccio won't fill you up, but the small bite is worth ordering for its velvety texture and complex flavor. Paper-thin slices of rich fish, each topped with a sliver of spicy red chili, swim in a mango ponzu sauce that's sweet, citrusy and savory all at once.

Where: 614 Water St.

Contact: 410-244-7385; http://www.tatuasianrestaurant.com

Open: Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Credit cards: All major

Reservations: Accepted for groups of 6 or more

Rating: ***

[Key: Superlative: *****; Excellent: ****; Very Good: ***; Good: **; Promising: *]