Baltimore's "upscale" ethnic restaurants
I was going to include an upscale ethnic restaurant on my wish list yesterday, my point being that Baltimoreans tend to insist that ethnic food has to be cheap, come in huge portions and be served in a hole-in-the-wall.
I got used to a very different attitude -- especially as far as Asian restaurants were concerned -- when I went out so often to visit my daughter in LA. (Sigh. I have the winter blues today.)
I still think that's our tendency as a city, but we also have some notable exceptions: the Helmand, the Ambassador, the Carlyle Club and the Mari Luna Latin Grille come to mind. ...
Among the chains, Fogo de Chao and Roy's (if you consider Hawaiian an ethnic cuisine) are pretty fancy.
They all present their food with plenty of style and in a very nice atmosphere. All have liquor licenses. You could dress up a bit for dinner at all of them without feeling out of place.
I can't decide. Are Baltimoreans more willing than they have been in the past to pay for style and ambiance with their ethnic food? That said, the Helmand has the best of both worlds. People consider it a bargain even though you can't BYOB and the dining room is candlelit and charming (when it's not too packed).
(Andre F. Chung/Sun photographer)