Remington, as neighborhoods go, is hot.
The neighborhood is conveniently close to the Homewood campus of the Johns Hopkins University. Charles Village is just to the east — Howard Street is the dividing line — and Hampden is just across the way. There have always been popular spots here, places like The Dizz and Ottobar, but now there are more.
Part of a former garage on Howard Street has been converted into an avant-garde theater. The other part is now a butcher shop and restaurant from the owners of Woodberry Kitchen.
There's another new restaurant worth knowing about — Sweet 27.
OK, it's not exactly a new restaurant. Sweet 27, until very recently, was called Meet 27. The menu has not changed much, and the atmosphere remains pleasantly funky, a little ramshackle. The place has always reminded me of a popular college hangout. The room's character comes from its charming murals, one of which portrays a lively group dinner at Sweet 27 — the assembled guests include Edgar Allan Poe, Thurgood Marshall and Michael Phelps.
But there has been a very big change here; the new name isn't random. It's the announcing of a fresh start for the restaurant.
The owner, Richard D'Souza, acquired a liquor license in December. So after operating for three years as a BYOB, the restaurant started, earlier this year, to provide its customers with lists of cocktails, beer and wine.
The fare is what we used to call eclectic.
A cold appetizer of spicy penang mussels wouldn't be out of place in a good Thai restaurant. There are some dishes with clear North African and Persian influences, like Moroccan beef chermola and the excellent pan-seared salmon, which is topped with a cranberry and pomegranate dressing.
The dominant cuisine, though, is Indian, which shows up in the delightful appetizer named batata vada, featherweight potato fritters in a chickpea tempura. We loved them, and we loved the vegetable fritters, too, savory, lightly fried tablets of chopped eggplant, cauliflower, potato and spinach.
And the Indian influence shows up again in entrees like duck Masaman curry and pork vindaloo. About that pork vindaloo: It's the best version of vindaloo I've ever had, just sublime. At first glance. it looks like the tired vindaloo you've had in a lifetime of Indian restaurant dining. But the curry, which combines garlic, ginger, peppers and vinegar, tastes for the world as though it had been made to order, just for us.
D'Souza is from the southwest coast of India, where dishes like vindaloo were derived from Portuguese cuisine. The vindaloo at Sweet 27 is his grandmother's recipe.
Did I mention that the food at Sweet 27 is 100 percent gluten-free? I almost didn't want to, because people get so touchy about the subject. (The beer and wine lists are not exclusively gluten-free.)
I was only really aware of the gluten issue at dessert, when we shared a strawberry amaretto mousse and a velvet chocolate tart. Only then, we were aware that something was different, or missing, and the truth is we had different reactions to the desserts' flavors and textures, which some found too sharp and dense. Others took right to them.
You should know that Sweet 27 is not only the name of the restaurant but also of D'Souza's gluten-free bakery and cafe, which has a separate entrance on 27th Street. Everything is connected, but the restaurant's main entrance is on Howard Street. It's not as confusing as it sounds, but if you're meeting someone there, make sure you look in both places.
Stick with it. Sweet 27 might not be technically a new restaurant. But it feels new to me, and I really hope that people that didn't check out Meet 27 will give Sweet 27 a try. It has some of the freshest and most delicious moderately priced dishes in town.
Rating: 3 stars
Where: 123 W 27th St., Remington/Charles Village
Contact: 410-464-7211, meet27.com
Open: 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 4:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Prices: Appetizers: $8-$21; Entrees: $14-$38
Food: Eclectic cuisine, with Mediterranean and Indian influences
Service: Friendly and informed
Parking/accessibility: Street parking is not hard to find
Children: There is no children's menu.
Special diets: The food menu is 100 percent gluten-free.
Noise level/televisions: Normal conversation is fine in the main dining room. There is a television in the bar area that is visible from the dining room
[Star key: Superlative: 5; Excellent: 4; Very Good: 3; Good: 2 ; Promising: 1]Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun