This is sad news for Baltimore foodies. Instead of creating omakase, chef Edward Kim is creating spreadsheets. If you're one of Kim's many fans, for the past eight months he's been in charge of all the food at the Westin Hotel near BWI Marshall Airport, including what's served at Luminous, its main dining room.
Baltimore has a few celebrity chefs, but for the most part we don't pay much attention to who's preparing our food as long as it tastes good. Kim has always been the exception. He was Ixia's first chef when it opened in Mount Vernon in 2001, and his innovative fusion cuisine captured people's imaginations immediately.
A year later he left Ixia to open his own place, a small, buzzworthy restaurant called Soigne on Fort Avenue. Loyal customers followed him there. In my review, I described the food as "rich and strange, with a personality all its own. You could call it Asian fusion, but that doesn't convey its charm."
Kim was probably best known for his version of omakase, in which he chose a theme ingredient and built a five-course meal around it.
When Soigne closed, he moved on to Mercado in Washington briefly, and then returned to Baltimore to take over the kitchen of another Mount Vernon restaurant, Saffron. It became Indigma when he left to become executive chef of the Beacon Bar & Grill in Washington last year.
Are you still with me?
My point is that during all his travels, I continued to get e-mails from people who wanted to know where Kim was and what he was doing. After the last time he left, I had heard not a whisper, but then someone asked about him on my blog, Dining@Large. Within a day, someone else posted that he was now at Luminous.
Actually, Kim told me when I called, he's not doing any cooking.
"Sometimes I miss it," he said.
He brought with him Dan Ennis, his sous-chef at Saffron, who oversees the Luminous kitchen. Kim created the menus for Luminous, which are described as pan-Asian but are in no way as imaginative as some of his menus in the past. It's more along the lines of an upscale P.F. Chang's (which I'm not knocking).
"It's a menu based on my clientele," he says.
Occasionally, if Kim gets a special request, he will cook an omakase, but basically, he says, he's become "corporate-oriented."
Luckie's bash It feels like we're hearing more about closings than openings these days, but Luckie's Tavern (10 Market Place, 410-223-1105, luckiestavern.com) in Power Plant Live! had a huge grand-opening bash a couple of weeks ago.
When Vin in Towson closed (so far temporarily) during the traffic-circle construction, its sous-chef, Justin McGaunn, and general manager, Billy Peterson, moved on to Luckie's. Their presence gives it some credibility as a restaurant and not just a college kids' hangout (in spite of the 16 beers on tap).
The menu has plenty of bar food and burgers; and the entrees include ribs and fish and chips. But there are also steak frites and rockfish with a honey-lemon drizzle, basil oil and an heirloom tomato salad. Desserts are limited to "fresh made" doughnuts, milkshakes and ice cream. A smart choice.
As of this writing, Luckie's is open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Friday and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, but those hours could change.
Closed doors Now for those closings: India Rasoi at 411 S. High St. finally gave up trying to convince people to come to Little Italy for its very decent Indian food. Big Kahuna Cantina in Harborplace has closed after being open a year and a half. And so far, there's been no announcement about what tenant will fill the spot vacated by California Pizza Kitchen. Those are two conspicuous spaces in the Inner Harbor complex to have empty for long.
No word on when or whether Boccaccio in Little Italy will reopen after its owner's death. I'm already hearing from readers wondering what to do about their gift certificates.
Baltimore has lost one of its 24-hour eateries. Not that the Paper Moon Diner in Hampden has closed, but its hours are now 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday, until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.