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Restaurant review

Festive drinks, fetching views give food a boost at 16 on the Park

The Baltimore Sun

There’s nothing like a sweeping view to put you in a good mood for a meal. Case in point: 16 on the Park, a sleek restaurant atop the 16th floor of the Residence Inn Baltimore near Eager Park on the sprawling Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.

One recent evening, as a bracing breeze swirled around our table and flattering shades of purple and pink from the exquisite sunset helped all of us look quite devastating, the vistas made it very easy to get past any disappointments from the kitchen — even easier with a boost from finely fashioned cocktails.

The bar’s specialties included a fun, dessert-y concoction that would have fit right in at Howard Johnson’s restaurants of yore — “Crush in the Park,” with orange-infused vodka as a base and a thick tangerine foam on top.

The “Church Square Sipper” made an even stronger impression with its supple blend of gin, Aperol and prosecco, the kind of refresher patrons are likely to quaff heartily in sultry weather.

Although the indoor portion of 16 on the Park looks cool and contemporary, I imagine most folks will want to head for the quieter outdoor patio, where there are tables and couches.

The east side view is limited by a huge HVAC system on top of the next building, but there are beguiling gazes in other directions. You can pick out landmarks of the downtown Baltimore skyline to the west, or count the cars on passing trains snaking through the city. It all gets quite hypnotic.

Eventually, though, you’ll want to eat. Among the modest-sized menu’s options are some things you expect almost everywhere these days — deviled eggs, for example. The version here is perfectly competent, though the filling could use a flavor kick. Flash-fried, breaded, crunchy Brussels sprouts gained even more character from a perky (OK, salty) soy glaze.

I’ve never been able to resist fritters. The crab-and-corn ones here pleased me with their slightly sweet taste (more corn than crab) and satisfying texture. Others at the table found them too big and doughy. But what do they know? Besides, we all agreed that the accompanying sriracha aioli provided the fritters an energizing finish.

Two lobster-enhanced dishes showed off the kitchen’s flair. Lobster mac ’n’ cheese boasted a good portion of tender lobster meat amid the nicely al dente pasta. The lobster roll also was a winner, well-stuffed with firm, tasty bites of the shellfish, sensibly dressed and seasoned. The fries alongside it hit the spot, too.

Broiled crab cakes measured up solidly — sizable lumps of crabmeat with nary a trace of filling, and a rather subtle, roasted garlic aioli for a finishing flourish.

A couple of beef options produced mixed results. In the case of a burger, the fixings (lettuce, onion, tomato, pickle, well-melted cheddar) turned out more flavorful than the two thin patties tucked inside the excellent bun.

As for the flatiron steak, its very tender quality would have registered better had it not been bathed in an overly salty sauce that suggested out-of-the-can origins or additions. A bevy of perfectly cooked potatoes, including fingerlings, on the plate lost ground when in contact with that unfortunate sauce.

Another unhappy surprise came after the meal with coffee that arrived cold and, to the veteran coffee drinkers at the table, flavor-challenged.

In a nice nod to the region, one of the two dessert options is traditional Smith Island cake, with its trademark of thin, multiple layers. The slice we sampled made us wonder if it had been off the island a day too long, but its sweetness and texture still held rewards.

The other dessert — ice cream sandwiches — yielded contentment. Inside the slightly too hard chocolate chip cookies we tried two addictive flavors, honey graham and Oreo/coffee.

16 on the Park might not warrant a 10, but the positive, aim-to-please vibe in the place suggests that it has what it takes to fine-tune things and bring everything up to the commanding level of the delightful view.

16 on the Park

Rating: 2.5 stars

Where: Residence Inn Baltimore, 800 N. Wolfe St.

Contact: 443-524-8400, pyramidrestaurantgroup.com/collection/16-on-the-park/ (a new web site for the restaurant is expected soon)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for lunch Monday to Friday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner seven days.

Prices: Appetizers $5 to $16, entrees $11 to $23

Food: American

Noise/TVs: The inside dining area, which boasts at least seven TVs, can be noisy. Outdoors, even with a pop music soundtrack playing, the sound is muted.

Service: Pleasant

Parking: Street, nearby garages

Special diets: They can be accommodated (there is an “On the Mend Menu” available for Hopkins patients).

Reservations: It’s first-come, first-served, but reservations are accepted for parties of 10 or more.

Handicap accessible: Yes

[Key: Superlative: 5 stars; Excellent: 4 stars; Very good: 3 stars; Good: 2 stars; Promising: 1 star]

tim.smith@baltsun.com

twitter.com/clefnotes

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