Ownership isn't the only thing that's changed at the old Harbor Court Hotel. The name may have expanded, to InterContinental Harbor Court, but its dining options have shrunk.
The upscale Hampton's restaurant has quietly converted to a catering space available for private parties and meetings. According to a press release, the more casual Brighton's now "takes the lead with vibrant contemporary American cuisine with European influence."
Talk about timing. Just as Hampton's comes to a close, its former chef has opened part of his new Hampden restaurant. For more than a year now, Galen Sampson and his wife, Bridget, have been renovating the space that was Mamie's and a record shop next door, with plans to open their eatery, Dogwood, in stages.
Stage No. 1 came a year ago, with the takeout part, Dogwood Deli. Last month, the first part of the restaurant itself came into being. That would be the main dining room. By this summer, the adjoining wine bar with more seating should be open.
Sampson says Dogwood is not your usual funky "Hampden Hon-ish" restaurant. He describes it as "elegant food in a comfortable setting." Sampson says the space is all downstairs, in the old Hampden Theater, so it's "entirely a wine-cellar cave sort of thing."
He says he and his wife have completely changed the space, ripping out interior walls to open it up, but putting a picture window in the middle to separate the dining room from the wine bar. The dining room colors are champagne gold, brown, black and tan, with touches of red - like the red pleather seats on the black ladder-back chairs.
The menu, too, is coming along in stages. First, there was the deli. Not your usual Italian-sub kinds of offerings: rosemary-peppered roast beef, served on ciabatta bread, topped with apricot-horseradish chutney, blue cheese and thyme-grilled onions ($8.10); albacore tuna, dill, minced shallots and celery in extra-virgin-olive-oil-vinaigrette dressing served with heirloom tomatoes and lettuce on marble rye ($6.75); and romaine-hearts-and-arugula salad with house-baked herb croutons, grape tomatoes and creamy eggless horseradish Caesar dressing ($7.50; with grilled chicken, $10.50; with Alaskan wild salmon, $11.75).
The new dinner menu is starting out small and changes daily, according to what ingredients Sampson finds available, mostly from local organic food producers.
He says there are three to four appetizers each day, like five grilled Chesapeake oysters stuffed with spinach and chevre ($12.50). On the entree list, expect about three choices. One day last week, they were 10-ounce grilled Hereford beef from the teres major, the second-most-tender cut, in a rosemary-peppercorn rub and mushroom beurre rouge ($20.50); roast pork tenderloin wrapped in smoked bacon, served with crispy potato, sweet-pea puree and wild mushrooms ($17.50); and sesame-crusted wild rockfish fillet with roasted beet-root puree and glazed parsnips ($17.25).
Sampson says on Friday and Saturday nights, his menus will be a little more sophisticated and elaborate.
Dogwood, 410-889-0952, is at 911 W. 36th St., and is entirely nonsmoking. Reservations are strongly recommended, and there is plenty of parking around back. The restaurant's hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Brunch is served 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.