Sometimes restaurant visits come with a moral. Our recent trip to Twist in Fells Point certainly did -- it offered a good reminder to never judge a book by its cover. Or, in this case, not to judge a restaurant by its website.
Twist's site is a well-organized, welcoming, bright piece of technology, promising all-day breakfast and suggesting, we thought, that the restaurant's a casual, fun diner-style spot.
The reality was just as welcoming and organized, but a good deal more sophisticated than we anticipated, in both food and decor. Twist, which opened in September, isn't stuffy, but it boasts an attractive space, good service and well-executed food — with some gravitas.
Scene & Decor On a recent Thursday night, the sidewalk outside Twist, tucked in the middle of a busy Fells Point block, was packed and nearby bars were crowded.
Inside the restaurant, though, white walls with gray accents and cloth-covered tables imbued the space with a sense of calm.
During our visit, about half of the tables in the small front dining room were occupied with couples on dates and small groups of friends; a second dining room, located in the back of the space, was empty.
Appetizer Twist's menu pulls together Mediterranean and American influences, a mix of comfort food and slightly more exotic fare. Our appetizer, lamb sausage paired with tangy harissa-spiked yogurt dip ($10), fell in the second category.
The five links of sausage, served on a bed of soft roasted eggplant and peppers with pita triangles, were seasoned with an intriguing blend of sweet and slightly hot spices. Crispy on the outside, with savory flavor, they were a good match for the dip, which managed to be both cool and hot at once. That's a neat trick.
The eggplant was inoffensive, though probably unnecessary; it was the most forgettable element on the plate.
Entrees We went with a lamb entree, too — this one an impressive rack ($23) of juicy, well-seasoned meat served with more of that roasted eggplant (here, it felt more essential) and a scoop of polenta. The combination was classic, appealing and nicely cooked.
A bowl of mushroom ravioli ($15), made in house and tossed with a light cream sauce, was equally satisfying. The sauce was expertly seasoned and just rich enough to taste luxurious without overwhelming the mushrooms' earthy flavor. The dish was simple but tasted terrific.
The kitchen also impressed with a simple cheeseburger ($12) — one of about a dozen burgers and sandwiches offered. The patty was obviously hand-formed, with carefully seasoned meat, and cooked just to medium rare. On the side, the double-fried French fries were excellent.
Drinks Twist does not have a liquor license but allows BYOB with no corkage fee (a beer and wine license is in the works). Nearly every table — including ours — had a bottle of wine and our waitress was quick with wine glasses and an opener.
The tables each also held bottles of sparkling water ($5), a nice touch that, like the carefully designed interior, helped elevate the meal above a standard dinner at a casual BYOB joint.
Dessert A plateful of tiramisu ($6) wasn't exactly what we expected. It was creamier than we wanted it to be and was accessorized with a superfluous drizzle of strawberry sauce. We didn't dislike the dessert, but the rest of the meal was better.
Service During our visit, a single waitress handled all the tables in the room; at the busiest point, she juggled about four tables at once. When we realized she was alone, we had a moment of concern, but she and the kitchen paced our meal correctly and she kept our water glasses filled and needs met from start to finish — all with a gentle smile and friendly, but reserved, attitude.
Her demeanor — accessible but unruffled — was indicative of our entire experience. We expected a busy, upbeat diner. Instead, we found something just as enjoyable — but with an appealing sheen of sophistication.