Executive Chef Sajin Renae recently left Fork & Wrench for a turn at motherhood and to live in the Big Apple. That is when Executive Chef Cyrus Keefer, former chef at Birroteca, came in to put his personal touch to Fork & Wrench’s farm-to-table cuisine.
Chef Keefer invited me to taste a selection of his offerings on the Fork & Wrench Summer 2013 menu. I had a preconceived notion of the restaurants and bars along Boston Street and what they look like, and they were all pretty pub-like with a push for happy hour drinkers. I was totally surprised, in a very good way, as to the appearance of this restaurant. Think retro businesses; a factory, library, pharmacy – each room stylishly appointed in its theme.
There is a room for everyone’s taste. Fork & Wrench’s bar with its half-moon shaped banquettes, to the green room with its distressed wall appearance, the second floor balcony dining room with its big sliding warehouse door that overlooks the enclosed court yard to the top floor with its Coke bottle chandelier and family table – all so visibly appealing. Check out my slideshow which will give you a better concept of the aesthetics of Fork and Wrench. Fork & Wrench’s owners spent approximately two years renovating and designing and it is a job well done. Continuing with the working man theme, the menu is reminiscent of an old-time work order with a two-hole punch with reinforcements.
Admittedly, I have a thing for Chef Keefer’s style of cooking and have likened him to Executive Chef Travis Lett of Gjelina in Venice, California. Keefer’s penchant for flavors tends to be Italian and Asian, both cuisines that are close to my heart. There is some fusion in his culinary repertoire like his escargot Bolognese with quadratini pasta, reggiano and shrimp toast or his scallop crudo with kiwi, Thai chili, Cerignola olive and fennel jus.
Everyday there is a new market salad reflecting what is freshest from the farmers. On my visit the market salad was acqua di pomodoro (tomato water), with house pickled green tomato and beets with avocado. Along with the market salad vegetarians/vegans can enjoy a 3 course tasting menu every night.
There is always one or two specials a night. On my sojourn to Fork & Wrench the specials were smoked mussels with saffron potatoes, calamari, extra virgin olive oil and Chianti and the second special was grilled octopus, cucumber, nasturtium in an octopus dashi.
The oil poached calamari, calamari ragout and heirloom baby tomatoes are a “not to be missed” dish. Not only does it scream summer with the bold flavors of the tomatoes, the poached calamari is so tender – this just might battle it out as one of my top dishes of the year. Beef short rib tortelli with white corn, pine nuts, marrow broth and Parmesan espuma and the grilled lamb chops with spicy lambs quarter dumplings and lamb dashi where show stoppers. Chef Keefer said the crispy half duck with summer condiments practically sells out every night so that is on my culinary bucket list for my return visit, that and braised veal cheeks.
Dessert, like the rest of Chef Keefer’s menu, was a blend of flavors; black pepper and clove ice cream with a berry coulis, biscotti and chocolate bouchon.
From the moment I walked in the door, the staff was attentive and well informed. My server Chuck had his hands full with so many dishes coming from the kitchen but he and his runner kept everything well timed, cleared and beverage glass filled.
I am prejudiced when it comes to Chef Keefer’s cuisine because it is in my culinary wheelhouse. If you are a standard lover; steak and mashed potato, Caesar salad with grilled chicken or meatloaf – then maybe Fork & Wrench is not for you, BUT, if you like farm fresh flavors, bold flavors, new approaches to the flavors you crave then I highly, without reservation, recommend Fork & Wrench. Reservations are highly suggested.
Fork & Wrench
2322 Boston Street – Baltimore MD 21224
Dinner: 5-11pm Monday – Saturday
Sunday Brunch / Supper: 10am-11pm
Cocktails: nightly until 2am
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