Friday, September 30, 2011

The Silver Platter Reopens

Same pit beef, new fries 

The Silver Platter reopened this week and introduced their new menu. People are fickle about food, and the business lunch crowd tends to gravitate toward the convenient and immediate. So, The Silver Platter took a serious risk when they closed up shop for a full two weeks to revamp the menu. They are back in business this week, but it is not the same food cart.

The gourmet dishes at ridiculous prices that they built their following on are gone, profit margin being cited as the principle reason. This is understandable as we all wondered how they were able to sell seared scallops and lobster mac and cheese for $12. Gone, too, are the previous chef team - the head chef (who left several weeks before the temporary closing) and his assistant chef who was beginning to roll out items of his own creation. In their place, there are now two short order cooks and a menu that consists primarily of Baltimore's latest culinary trend - sliders.

The hot dog
The current menu offers the original pit beef and pulled pork in the smaller slider size, plus Cajun chicken, barbecue salmon and hot dogs, all served on a Martin's potato roll. The highly popular potato ribbons have been replaced with more standard food service fries, both potato and sweet potato. An order consists of two sliders or dogs with a side of fries and a soda or bottled water, all for $10 (except the hot dog, which was $6).

The small group of us regulars who went back to The Sliver Platter on its grand reopening were left unmoved. We tried the hot dog, the barbecue salmon and the pit beef. While the home made barbecue sauce for the pit beef was also gone (replaced with a super-sweet sauce from a bottle), the meat itself was still just as good as before. I ate it all but left the Martin's rolls behind. The hot dog was a standard hot dog, and, when asked how it was, its consumer merely shrugged. The salmon was first deemed "something I could have made at home". We all agreed that the old artistry was missing. Whether that is the new staff, the new menu, or both remains to be seen.
The barbecue salmon

And there is definitely some craftsmanship missing at this juncture. The Lobster Roll - a favorite from the old menu - made an appearance on Day 2 as a special. It was still a generous portion of lobster meat, but the salad was missing some of its former creaminess. And the grilled, buttered bread that it used to be served in was replaced with a Martin's hot dog bun, straight out of the bag. That being said, it takes time for a new kitchen staff to gel. This week, though, The Silver Platter has undeniably been having some growing pains.

Some of the other items from the previous menu will be rotated back through as specials, but, like the Lobster Roll, they may not be the same masterpieces we have come to know and love. Suggestions will also be solicited via their Facebook page. While I secretly wondered how long this would last, I'm hoping The Silver Platter grows beyond the new sliders concept in the weeks to come. The truck is outfitted with a smoker, and the pit beef is still a strong item. We're hoping they make more use of the smoker in their new conception and bring back some variety of ribs.
This week's Lobster Roll

There is no doubt that The Silver Platter will find its crowd. But reinventing yourself is difficult, especially for purveyors of food who rely on a crowd of familiar faces. After this first week, when many regulars shook their heads in bewilderment, their future in the Harbor East neighborhood seems a little uncertain. In an area with an overabundance of eateries, what can you offer the local crowd that others cannot? Previously, we got a gourmet food experience at a non-gourmet price. What will it be now?  With even the wine bar on the block selling sliders, it may be challenging in this neighborhood.

With his promotion of (and I suspect organizational involvement in) The Gathering food truck happy hours, it seems like the owner of The Silver Platter has something to offer the city.I'll be returning as the new menu develops.

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