Restaurateur Qayum Karzai has had the Midas touch when it comes to Baltimore restaurants. First, there was the Helmand, the North Charles Street restaurant that features the cuisine of his native Afghanistan. Then came Tapas Teatro, which specializes in Spanish "little plates" and has given new life to the area around the Charles Theatre.
Both eateries have been wildly successful. So, will the magic continue at Karzai's restaurant No. 3? You can see for yourself, starting next week, when b opens at 1501 Bolton St.
If everything goes as planned, Karzai and wife Patricia will open the doors Tuesday to what they describe as a "neighborhood bistro." It's at the Bolton Hill site of what was Junior's.
Karzai says the goal is to create a place that is a comfortable hangout for both Bolton Hill residents and students from the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art.
He says there will be a self-serve coffee counter (espresso drinks will be made to order) and baskets of muffins and pastries for the morning crowd. At lunch, there will be some items pre-wrapped to go, as well as an eat-in menu that includes several salads, sandwiches and homemade pizza.
The dinner menu includes appetizers such as beef carpaccio and hummus, several salads, pastas and entrees such as pepper fennel roasted lamb with red wine sauce and grilled salmon in a lemon dill white wine sauce.
Karzai is using the bistro's beer and wine license to offer an extensive wine list -- with per-glass, half-bottle and bottle prices to meet the pocketbook of both the student and the professional.
Patricia Karzai says they tried to give the place a casual, airy neighborhood feel, with some bright colors in the upholstery and both new and old photos of Bolton Hill on the walls.
To further that comfy feeling, the Karzais plan to offer a periodicals section, with various local, national and international newspapers and magazines.
b will be open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday for breakfast and brunch.
New near Meyerhoff
As promised, a new restaurant has opened at Abacrombie Fine Food and Accommodations -- just a couple of months after La Tesso Tana closed in that space right across from the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
The inn's owners, Melanie and Sonny Sweetman, are running the eatery, with Sonny doing double duty as chef.
The menu offers four first-course selections, including sweet corn consomme with apple-bacon-wrapped scallops ($10) and pan-seared foie gras ($13); five entrees, including grilled swordfish with blue crab and hominy ragout ($16) and rack of lamb with potato roasted eggplant ($24); and two desserts, among them creme brulee ($9) and apple tarte Tatin ($8).
Abacrombie is at 58 W. Biddle St. Hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
I've gotten word on a couple of closings from some readers of this column. The Bun Penny Deli at Cross Keys is no more. And the Coffee Mill on Chestnut Street in Hampden has closed its doors. If I get any official news of why they closed and whether they'll resurface elsewhere, I'll let you know.
Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions by fax to Sloane Brown at 410-675-3451, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.