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Tabrizi's Restaurant is striving toward new goals without forgetting the basics

Grilled salmon at Tabrizi's in Baltimore
Grilled salmon at Tabrizi's in Baltimore

It was a Wednesday afternoon, right around 3:00 p.m., when I went to visit with Michael Tabrizi—chef and owner of Tabrizi's Restaurant in the Harborview community. I have to admit that it was such a gorgeous view that I could have sat on the bench overlooking the beautiful Harborview Marina much longer, if only about ten degrees were added to the cool 40-something degree weather. Nonetheless, I had answers to get about this unique restaurant that serves both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, so I went in and had a conversation with Chef Michael Tabrizi.

During the course of the conversation, Tabrizi appeared to be a very laid-back guy, but serious about his culture and bringing good food to the table. One of the things that Tabrizi said that truly struck me was this: "The main ingredient is loving food. If you want to push plates, you will just be one of the many." Hmmh, I like where this interview is going! The restaurant serves a combination of cuisines, from Greek to Moroccan to French to Lebanese. For him the cuisine is also very personal because it represents the type of food he grew up on, including foods made with lots of grains and olive oil—mostly grilled and baked.

Pork-lovers, bring an appetite for beef, poultry, fish or lamb because you won't find pork on Tabrizi's menu. However, vegans will be delightfully served with the restaurant's Quintet platter, which features: Two-Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, Falafel, Tabbouleh and Grilled Stuffed Grape Leaves. Don't worry meat-lovers, you are not out in the cold. Try the highly recommended lamburghini, a burger made with beef and lamb served on a whole wheat wrap with hummus, garden vegetables, fresh mint and fries. According Chef Tabrizi, the lamburghini has gotten quite the reputation, with guests coming all the way from D.C. and yonder to taste the tender and juicy burger. If fish is more your speed then another favorite at the restaurant is the Chilean Sea Bass. It is encrusted with sesame seeds, served over Indian harvest grains and served with asparagus and rosemary beurre blanc.

Tabrizi, who is originally from Israel, opened the first Tabrizi's, located in Federal Hill, back in 1990. After closing the restaurant, he went to Europe and had the "a-ha moment" of realization that this was really what he wanted to do with his life. So he came back and then re-opened in 2007 at the new location, just in the shadow of the Harborview Tower.

Since then Chef Tabrizi has not only made great strides in putting the restaurant on the map as an eclectic dining choice in Baltimore's bustling restaurant scene, but Tabrizi's is also fast becoming a top choice of venues for wedding receptions. This is no accidental happening, and he's not just whistling dixie, Tabrizi is putting on a concerted effort, confiding "I’d like to see myself as the number one wedding venue in Baltimore." What? You thought Four Seasons was the only game in town? Michael Tabrizi feels that his services are just good enough to eventually warrant that honor.

He makes a good case too, expressing the flexibility that he has as an owner. Tabrizi points out, "I don't have memos from corporate. I can make decisions." Standing by his lofty goal, he says, "We are getting there." He jokes of the lessons he's learned in an up and down economy,"Based on my past four years of experience . . . girls will marry in any economy." This year the restaurant has hosted 40 wedding receptions, with its busiest season occurring between March and Mid-November.

It's hardly a surprise that Tabrizi's would be a prime choice for wedding receptions, after all, the real estate is prime. The view from the restaurant is incredible. It has availability on the first and second floors, 24-hour free parking for wedding guest ( three-hour parking for restaurant guests) and the outdoor patio that is adjacent to the marina and overlooking the harbor. Pretty good amenities, don't you think? Tabrizi's also dedicates its resources solely to the wedding, giving restaurant guests, the option of black-out dates.

The menu prices are a little steep at Tabrizi's, which is of great relevance to some and not so great to others. However, if you are a person who saves their pennies to afford a little dip in the lap of luxury (raising my hand), then try Tabrizi's during Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week. It's coming this January 25 - February 3, 2013. Tabrizi's participates in both the summer and winter restaurant weeks. Owner, Chef Michael Tabrizi, says, "We always want to attract new customers. Sixty-percent (Restaurant Week attendees) are first time diners." And the good news for Chef Tabrizi is maybe a few of those new diners might just consider Tabrizi's for their wedding venue.

Fun Questions:

BER Examiner: If you were left with only three spices/herbs to prepare and season the meals at Tabrizi’s what would they be and why?

Michael Tabrizi: Rosemary, tarragon and sage—they go with all the main protein ingredients—seafood, beef, and poultry.

BER Examiner: What is the inspiration for your menu and how does that inspiration change and evolve?

Michael Tabrizi: I grew up on grains, olive oil, and seafood. Every now and then you can see some trends...but I'm a classic guy and I stick to the basics. . . old school. The key in my cooking is to always have the right chemistry in the food. You cannot pick any vegetable and starch with a meat. A wholesome meal is a meal that is perfectly balanced between the protein choice, the vegetable choice, and starch choice

Check out Chef Tabrizi's recipe for Stuffed Avocados on the website.


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