January 6, 2020
Jorge Ortiz (foreground) fills an arepa while others work at the arepa grill at Alma Cocina Latina. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
Story from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/tom-sietsemas-8-favorite-places-to-eat-right-now/2019/12/17/34f94e46-1848-11ea-9110-3b34ce1d92b1_story.html
I’ll be honest. I was concerned for this South American dining room in Baltimore when Enrique Limardo decamped for the bright lights of Washington, where the visionary chef now dazzles patrons at Seven Reasons. Could the food at Alma Cocina Latina be as luscious without one of the Mid-Atlantic’s top talents at the helm?
A sip of a classic daiquiri and a bite of a crisp-soft arepa, brimming with mango-sweetened shredded pork, had me mentally applauding the work of his replacement. The arrival of the smoky grilled baby octopus — creamy with roasted pepper aioli and served on a plate painted with spokes of squid ink — erased any doubts I was in good hands. “It was a seamless transition,” says Irena Stein, owner of the convivial restaurant in southeast Baltimore. The new executive chef, Venezuela native Karem Barragan, worked for several years under Limardo, whom Stein retained as culinary director. “No new dish goes out without Enrique’s approval,” she says.
Whew. And wow. “Alma-style” seafood paella brings together shrimp, scallops and zesty chorizo but also citrus oil and a tomato-vinegar dressing. Sumac-seasoned duck, artfully fanned over toasted couscous, gets a liquid frame of pale green kale oil and kicky blueberry sauce.
The precise and beautiful food draws you in. The design encourages you to unwind. Hoping to “bring in the garden,” Stein hung her lush outdoor photographs on the walls and planted tropical details throughout. Everywhere you look, there’s something green: palm trees, asparagus ferns, philodendron. As the owner puts it, “Nature is in your face.” Much like the memorable plates.
2400 Boston St., Baltimore. 667-212-4273. almacocinalatina.com. Entrees, $21 to $45 (for prime rib-eye).