There is something about seafood, it is kinda like a bell that rings loudly in the ears of men, women, and babies. When the words “seafood” are wafted through the air people find themselves thinking “indulgence is in our midst” and for a moment they envision themselves about to partake in a level of sumptuousness that doesn’t come around on a daily basis.
Papi Cuisine in Baltimore, Maryland gives off this very vibe, the images on Instagram looked so ravishing and the reservations so unyielding I found myself in a frenzy trying to make my acquaintance with the cuisine, and as serendipity would have it, today was my day.
During my time as a restaurant goer I have become very accustomed to levels, in other words the progression of the menu. First the appetizers, then entree, then the dessert; this progression is not only designed to set the tone for the palate, but it is a true introduction to the cuisine. The menu provides the patron with a peek into the range of the chef and what he or she deems as the apple of their eye.
The appetizers are often petite in portion and smaller in price, but this is certainly not the case for Papi Cuisine where seafood, especially the crab is the apple of this chef’s eye. So first up was the Crab Cake Egg Roll, a hand crafted roll filled with cheesy crab and drizzled with aioli sauce. Real talk, this was an expensive egg roll, but I will also write it was worth it. From the first bite I knew I was tasting premium crab meat, no filler whatsoever, it was sweet meat, it was tender, it was buttery, it was rich, beautifully golden brown, and savory, this egg roll was an absolute hit.
After eating this egg roll, I found myself needing a refreshment, not because it was overwhelming in taste, but simply because I wanted something to wet whistle. When it came to ordering a refreshment there were none, or should I rephrase it was none for me; you see Papi Cuisine only serves alcoholic drinks and water. Now I am generally not a person who would find themselves easily slighted, but in this case I certainly did. Was Papi Cuisine making a statement without forwardly making one? I would certainly say they were, and whether or not they were aware of it, they were making the statement that they were not that interested in all kinds of clientele. What they went on to say without saying was that they devalued the non-alcoholic drinker and that their focus was not on me and that they were ok with that. No coke products, no pepsi products, no tea, no lemonade, no consideration.
Second up, the Ultimate Seafood Alfredo, with grilled lobster, colossal shrimp, and jumbo crab. If there are kudos for the presentation you definitely deserve yours, the exhibition was very nicely done. Now there is something to be said for thinking a plan out to the end and putting yourself in the shoes of the patron. Although the staging was great the actual plan for eating was a bit on the flop side for me. You see I am the kind of eater who hates to eat with their hands. If I order pasta I am strategically picking not to get my hands integrated into the festivities, but I had to in order to eat this. I had to pull and I do mean pull with an extra umph to get that lobster out of the shell, I had to remove the shells from the ends of my shrimp, and all of this before I could take one single bite.
When I took that first bite of the pasta and lobster, I thought creamy and I tasted yummy from the pasta and sauce only. The lobster on the other had not taken a trip to flavortown and was left rubbery, vapid, and completely unfulfilling. Having grown up on crab, I fancy myself as a semi-expert, so I know that no matter the description of the crab, lump or otherwise it is a delicate piece of meat. When you have something so delicate the matchup is crucial. When you go out of your way to use the term “Ultimate Seafood…” what you are insinuating is that with every bite I will participate in every piece of seafood in the pasta, and I could not taste the crab. It was swallowed up by the heaviness of the alfredo, the sauce left no room for the crab to shine through. But then redemption took place in between bites when I got to the shrimp. In most cases I would frown on fried shrimp in a wet pasta, but the shrimp held up and the taste of those shrimp was better than a home run. Papi Cuisine each time I wanted to condemn you for your sins with that lobster and that overpriced appetizer, I found myself letting your transgressions escape me with each bite of that alfredo pasta and shrimp.
Papi Cuisine, I am well aware that you are still a young business and I view your infancy compared to your execution, so I am prepared to give you some allowances. However, I will give you some feedback, keep in mind that appetizers probably shouldn’t be the same price as entree prices, and for goodness sakes man get some non-alcoholic drinks in your establishment and stop shunning those who have opted not to partake, and lastly for the prices you must get some desserts on the menu. Desserts act as a culmination to an experience and serve as a last impression.
Papi Cuisine I am actually excited to see how you will grow, how you change, and more importantly how you take feedback from your patrons. Next time I come I know to order the appetizer only and to bring my own lemonade from Chick-Fil-A🍴