The review: Milan
Milan, Little Italy's new high-end restaurant and lounge, has a certain vibe that's hard to put a finger on.
I was there for almost an hour last night before I realized: The body-length arched windows, sparkling chandeliers and plush white leather furniture give Milan the feel of a McMansion in the suburbs of Miami -- like the house of someone who had a boatload of money and couldn't help but show it off. It's very fancy.
Where Red Maple, with its exposed brick and fire pits is dark and exotic, Milan is bright and so clean it almost seems sterile. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily.
There are plenty of people who love lounges like Milan. (I overheard someone who appeared to be one of the owners talking about how Milan has a Miami/Washington feel.)
But after years of watching clubs like Milan open then close a year or two later, I can't help but worry it won't take hold here. Red Maple is small by comparison, which is one of the reasons it's lasted so long. ...
Around 9:45 p.m. yesterday, the downstairs bar and lounge was about half full, which is a good sign, considering Milan's grand opening isn't even until tonight.
When I walked in, the hostess politely asked me to remove my hat. I've never been asked to do that before, but didn't mind. It was a nice touch.
I sat at the bar in a high-backed white leather chair, next to a few well-dressed businessmen, and studied the space. Milan's color scheme is full of bright whites, light gray tiles and deep reds. A few white lamps shaped like giant cream puffs hung above the bar. I wanted to take a bite out of them.
The nearby lounge has a gas fireplace; a gas fire also flickered in a free-standing decorative box by the hostess stand. House music played at the perfect level overhead, and small, marble-topped tables stood near the bar.
It took a few minutes for one of the several bartenders to notice me, but once they did, the service was kind and quick.
Most of the martinis and cocktails on the drink list hovered around $10, and were made with top-shelf liquors. I was pleasantly surprised to see a section of classic beverages such as the Sidecar, Tom Collins, Gimlet and Manhattan.
I ordered a Gin Plush ($9), a mixture of Tanqueray, guava nectar, pineapple and orange juice with a splash of club soda, served in a wide, round rocks glass. The citrus notes from the juices took the edge off the gin without overpowering it.
I doubt if Little Italy has ever seen anything quite like Milan before. It's clear the owners have invested an incredible amount of time and money in Milan. Since there are so few places like this in Baltimore, it's certainly worth exploring.
As someone who has covered nightlife here for almost five years, I have my reservations about Milan, though. I can see it doing well for the next several months. I just wonder what will happen when the shine wears off.(Baltimore Sun photos by Algerina Perna)