January 8, 2015

Stone's Cove KitBar

10997 Owings Mills Boulevard, Owings Mills, MD  21117

First thing's first: this place is pretty darn cool. While “open kitchens” have been around for years, this place takes it to the next level. Stone's Cove KitBar isn't just a prep line with a few tables in front of it, but an entire “kitchen” in the middle of a bar. Granted, I didn't see any deep-fryers or char-broilers, but I did especially love the focal point of the entire restaurant: the wood-burning pizza oven in the middle, surrounded by pricey bottles of vodka and top-shelf whiskeys. The KitBar has carved out their own niche on “open kitchens” with a fun menu, concept, and brand.

A Thursday night in early December, my good friend Kate was taking me out to dinner for my birthday to try this new place that we had heard about from a friend at work. What happens when two chefs who are always up for tasty treats and luscious libations hear about a place where bartenders cook your food? Of course we had to try it. When we arrived at the KitBar (after driving down some crazy windy road that was scary as crap) we were seated at the bar by a friendly hostess. The menus are situated inside a “placemat”-type leather pouch, and they are creatively designed. Being someone that creates menus on a crazy-amount-of-time basis, I appreciate a well-designed one. Dinner is on one side, brunch on the other, for an easy switch-out on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when they serve brunch from 11am-4pm. A “cheftender” came over, and after letting her know we were first-timers, she gave us the spiel. She let us know that she was our primary “cheftender”, but anyone would gladly serve us whatever we needed throughout the evening. Fair enough, just like bartending. Kate ordered a Manhattan (because she's a 73-year-old woman), and I had a Raspberry Sweet Tea, made with Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka, fresh lemon, cane syrup, soda water, and raspberry puree. My drink was puckering-ly sweet, but Kate enjoyed her Manhattan. She also enjoyed a glass of Santa Julia Cabernet with dinner, which she said was fantastic!


Every dining experience should include three courses, and to me, the appetizer is always the favorite. I also have an unhealthy obsession with dips: crab, spinach, buffalo chicken, onion – you name it, I've dipped it. My excitement for appetizers paired with my love for dips brought us to the “Hot and Cold Dips” dish from the “Appetapas” (which is, by far, the coolest name for appetizers, like, ever) menu. Described as “three-cheese spinach dip with flatbread crackers and a cool quartet of toppers,” this appetapas was served on a dish resembling an artist's paint palette, with the dip and chips on a large portion, and four cool dips in the smaller remaining portions. The dips included Cucumber Tzatziki, Olive Tapenade, Jalapeno-Artichoke, and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus. We were advised to put the hot spinach dip on a cracker and then top with either one, or all, of the cool dips and enjoy them together. So we did. My favorite was the tapenade, of course, but the artichoke also complemented the spinach dip extremely well. The tapenade worked well because the spinach dip was so rich and creamy, the salt from the tapenade really set it off. The artichoke dip also worked on top, because – spinach and artichoke, duh. I appreciated the concept of the hot-and-cold combo, and I thought the spinach dip was so good, I ate some of it straight off my spoon. Next time, though, I decided I must try the Lobster Cones, which stuffs a "chipotle lobster salad inside a black sesame baby ice cream cone." If not for taste, for presentation alone!


At this point in time, service started to lack. We were ready to choose our meals, but it took quite a while to get someone back over to take our order. (Well, except that one kid who was flirting with Kate the whole time because she was wearing her chef coat and that was just the coolest thing in the world to him.) When the server, who was not our “cheftender” came back, I ordered the “Muffaletta Flatbread” that the manager suggested, and Kate chose the “Margarita Crab Lettuce Wraps”. We watched as the cheftenders prepared our meal, my flatbread going into the wood-burning brick oven, and the crab salad being carefully plated.


Upon arrival, the food looked fantastic! The crab salad was plated on the same plate as the appetapas, and in the four smaller areas, there was lime-infused sea salt, chopped cilantro, margarita “dressing”, and lime wedges. My flatbread was served on a long stone block, resembling a chalkboard. The food was good; the presentation was better. Kate and I both enjoyed the crab salad, tossed with avocado, mango, red onion, and almonds, however, we both agreed that the almonds were certainly out of place. Walnuts would have been the better choice, but no nuts at all was probably the way to go. While the flavors were all there, unfortunately, so was the shell. And the shell. And more shell. With every bite I watched Kate enjoy, I also watched her pick shell out of her mouth. I also had a few bites of the salad and had to fish out shell as well (hey, a pun and a rhyme!). The best touch was the lime-infused sea salt, which, served on the side, can be added to each bite.


Just like with the crab salad, the flavors were all there, but the flatbread was slightly underwhelming in texture. I had to eat it with a knife and fork (gasp!) because I was unable to pick it up. The picture below appears that the crust is crisp like a cracker, but unfortunately, it wasn't.  Even with that kick-ass wood-burning oven, they couldn't seem to get a good crust; although, I was left wondering whether or not it was because of the plethora of ingredients on top. It may be hard to get a crispy crust with toppings such as olive tapenade, provolone, salami, pepperoni, capicola and olive oil. I also don't know if the trio of salt-cured meats was necessary, as the tapenade itself was salty enough. Simply pepperoni or salami would have done the trick, or even a different, less-salty type of meat altogether.



Though I didn't particularly care for the way the “cheftenders” worked as a team – many disappearing to check their phones, watch the Cowboys destroy da Bears on TNF, or chatting up one couple at the bar the entire time-- all-in-all, Stone's Cove KitBar is worth another shot. Their menu is eclectic enough for a few trips, even if everything wasn't on-point on the first go 'round. How could you not return to a spot that has elevated the meaning of “open-kitchen”, and serves dishes such as Lobster Cones, Upside Down Meatloaf Cupcakes, Bayou Quarter French Dip, and a S'Mores Flatbread?


P.S.  The manager was a very nice and friendly man who came over to make sure everything was okay, and chatted us up for a little while.  When Kate told him it was my birthday, he insisted I have dessert on the house, "Luv Cones", vanilla cones filled with white chocolate and topped with homemade whipped cream and peppermint.  I was incredibly full, and I explained that I am not fond of sweets anyway, but thanked him.  He came back with a coupon for a free flatbread!  Very nice touch, KitBar!



No comments:

Post a Comment