Late spring seems to bring a disproportionate number of restaurant openings and closings. Is a fiscal year drawing to a close? Keep your eyes and ears open.
There's very big news on the Eastern Shore, with the arrival of celebrity chef Mark Salter at the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford. You might remember the British born Salter from his highly regarded 17-year stretch as executive chef at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels. This move reunites him with Ian Fleming, Perry Cabin's former manager. Salter, who will be acting as the 300-year-old inn's proprietor as well, is ramping up for an official June 25 opening for the main dining room and the newly renamed Salter's Tavern.
Salter sent along some sample menus, and reading them made me very hungry. On the fine-dining menu, alongside his signature crab cake and Maryland crab spring roll with pink grapefruit, avocado and toasted almond, Salter is planning pretzel-encrusted soft shells, a Sri Lankan-rubbed grouper fillet, and wild rock fish with succotash, soft polenta and local beans.
For information about making reservations, call the Robert Morris Inn at 410-226-5111.
Changes at Meridian 54: In Canton, the space that was recently Meridian 54 is now Tangier's. The largely Moroccan menu specializes in kebabs, the stews known at tahines, and all kinds of mezze, and a menu posted on the iDine website makes intriguing references to Morocco's Sephardic Jewish community. A newcomer to the Baltimore restaurant scene, Alain Suissa, is running Tangier's.
This is the old Redfish space, and Canton residents are by now accustomed to the air of intrigue associated with the comings and goings here, and so a Moroccan restaurant seems perfect. For now, a reliable phone number is hard to come by, and Tangier's has no Web address. The street address is 845 S. Montford Ave.
Lunch at Milan: Milan, in Little Italy, is now offering lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. The lunch menu features salads and sandwiches, as well as pastas and flatbreads and some of executive chef Stephen Carey's inventive small plates. This isn't huge news, other than its being part of the trend away from dinner-only service.
Lemongrass closes: Also in Little Italy (although no one thinks of it as Little Italy), the contemporary Thai restaurant Lemongrass has closed. Lemongrass opened big and managed to outlast by years its sister restaurant Tsunami. I thought Tsunami was a total misfire, but Lemongrass really should have made more of a go of it.
The location was challenging, but my take on Lemongrass and Tsunami is that they never managed to fully convey that they were thrilled to be in Baltimore. I think we'll always be the kind of town that needs that kind of extra reassurance. I remember being baffled by something as random as how long it took them to establish a Web identity for the Baltimore editions of Tsunami and Lemongrass. I've been harping on websites lately, both here and in the Sunday reviews. I still think a good restaurant tends to do everything right, especially those things that relate to thinking like the customer.
Meanwhile, Tsunami's replacement, La Diabolita, is still operating.
Odds and ends: Threads still dangling include the ongoing attempts to sell the Brass Elephant property; the fate of the Jacksonville property that was formerly Henry's Bistro and, more recently, Lapinski's Bistro; the ongoing saga of Timothy Dean, including his appearances both on "Top Chef" and in bankruptcy court; and the ongoing attempts by Qayum Karzai and developer Michael Schecter to purchase the old Chesapeake restaurant property from the Baltimore Development Corporation. Stay tuned.