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Cyrus Keefer to open his own restaurant in Hampden

The chef Cyrus Keefer posed with the Thanksgiving dish he created for a 2014 Baltimore Sun feature story.
The chef Cyrus Keefer posed with the Thanksgiving dish he created for a 2014 Baltimore Sun feature story. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Cyrus Keefer, formerly the chef at Fork & Wrench and Birroteca, said he has signed a lease for the restaurant space in Hampden that is currently home to Luigi's Italian Bistro.

Keefer plans to open a 25-seat "micro restaurant" named Pique in the space on The Avenue this spring. The future for Luigi's, which was still operating in mid-January, is uncertain, and the eatery's owners did not immediately reply to a phone call seeking information.

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Pique (pronounced PEE cue) is named for the culinary term "oignon pique" -- literally "pricked onion" -- which describes pinning bay leaves to an onion using whole cloves as a tack. The restaurant, Keefer said, will showcase his classical French skills and his affinity for Asian flavors.

"It comes from my training," said Keefer, 39, "which is classical French training, and my love for Asian cuisine. It's basically fusion, which went out of fashion just as I was getting started in my career. But it's coming back in style, now."

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He will giving diners a preview of Pique at a "pop-up" dinner on Jan. 22 at Sotto Sopra. The five-course menu includes a duck pot au feu with roasted turnips and Thai basil, octopus with green curry and coconut-poached potato and pork belly dumplings with whiskey vinegar. Tickets for the dinner are $75 and are available through Missiontix.

Keefer is hoping to raise start-up funds for Pique through the crowdsourcing website Kickstarter. The raised funds will be used for "kitchen installation, design and initial operating costs," according to a description of the project on its Pique Kickstarter page.

Crowdsourcing for restaurant projects is unconventional but not unprecedented. There were more than 700 active and inactive restaurant appeals on the Kickstarter site as of mid-January. A few of them were quite successful. More than 1,500 donors, or "backers," gave more than $250,000 toward Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen, a proposed New York City restaurant from a celebrity chef known from her appearances on "Top Chef" and ABC's "The Chew."

Keefer said he felt funny at first about using Kickstarter to raise funds for his project.

"I worried about doing it," Keefer said. "But if you're afraid to ask for help, you're not going to get any help. And the reward programs I'm offering [to backers] are awesome." 

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