Opening with a bang and a banquet

The Baltimore Sun

Once Baltimore had a Chinatown. It was small, but it was a Chinatown. Now Richard Wong, a Philadelphia restaurateur and native of China, hopes to resurrect it. The first step is his new restaurant, Zhongshan (323 Park Ave., 410-223-1881), scheduled to open for regular business Friday.

Some restaurants open quietly and have their grand opening months later. Not Zhongshan. The night before the opening, the owner will hold a 10-course banquet (by invitation only, unfortunately). The 300 block of Park Ave. will be closed off, and the celebration will include firecrackers (yes, the owner has gotten the necessary permits) and a Chinese lion dance.

I asked the general manager, C.K. Cheng, if anything else was planned.

"Local dignitaries have been invited," he said. "I don't know if they'll be here or not. The Chinese Embassy in Washington is sending someone."

As for the restaurant itself, Zhongshan will be casual and moderately priced and doesn't have a liquor license yet. The regular Chinese restaurant menu has the popular standards such as Happy Family, General Tso's chicken and Kung Pao beef. But there are also lots of vegetarian choices and dishes from other Asian countries. Cheng said that guest chefs from China will be flown in periodically.

Dim sum will be offered, and a display cabinet in back will hold roast duck and roast pork available by the pound. Plans are for the restaurant to be open seven days a week, but that could change.

Don't blame the economy When I heard that Fin Steak & Seafood in the Admiral Fell Inn in Fells Point had closed, I assumed it was because of the faltering economy. Not so, said Sherry Cohen, director of food and beverage for Admiral Fell Inn Catering, who with her husband, chef Avi Cohen, ran Fin. Business had been good recently because of all the favorable press the restaurant had received, including being ranked No. 19 in Baltimore magazine's 50 Best Restaurants list. On a Saturday night, she said, Fin was turning away "20 or 30 covers," that is, reservations for tables.

Because of legal issues, Sherry Cohen said she couldn't tell me the nature of the dispute with the inn that resulted in the couple's leaving, except to say, "We couldn't operate under the terms of the agreement."

Change in the kitchen Matthew Siegmund has become the new executive chef of the Oregon Grille in Cockeysville, replacing Stefan Sabo, whose one-year contract had expired.

Siegmund, who trained under former chef Mark Henry, describes his cuisine as "regional American with French influences." While the Oregon Grille is often thought of as an upscale steakhouse, there is plenty of seafood on the menu. As a native Marylander, Siegmund is particularly interested in local seafood. A couple of his signature dishes offered now are oysters Avery with jumbo lump crab meat and crab-encrusted rockfish with pesto mashed potatoes, arugula, mushrooms and a cognac-lobster sauce.


Where: : The Blue Sea Grill, 614 Water St.

The Deal: : Happy hour raw bar, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Littleneck and cherrystone clams, 50 cents each; oyster of the day, 75 cents each; oyster shooters, $2

Call: : 410-837-7300

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