Sophisticated international fare in Baltimore
Located inside Baltimore’s The Ivy hotel, Magdalena is a feast for the eyes and for the mouth. The lovely restaurant has quickly become an acclaimed fine-dining spot since opening in 2015.
Chef Mark Levy is at the helm of the kitchen that turns out inspired and seasonal international dishes — in fact, expect the sophisticated menu to change on a daily basis.
At first glance, a striking mural of a Spanish woman, inspired by American portrait artist John Singer Sargent, welcomes you upon entering the restaurant. The decorative wall art continues throughout the Baltimore restaurant with intricate trompe l'oeil and folk art compositions.
Interesting light fixtures range from globes to rusty barn lights. Stunning ornamental floral arrangements punctuate the five separate dining spaces and help bring the natural world inside.
Even the bathrooms earn a double take thanks to the Moorish-inspired wood panels from Morocco adorning ceilings.
Despite this kaleidoscope of competing designs, hues and textures, it all meshes incredibly well together. It’s looks a bit like Baltimore — a melting pot of design and culture aptly named Charm City.
There are five separate dining areas in Magdalena, providing the restaurant with flexibility to host groups, large events and cozy intimate dinners.
The Bar is bathed in warm gold tones with a row of fine malt whiskeys lining the shelves. The Garden Room looks out over the courtyard and its gurgling fountain and lush green lawn (the seating is extended onto the patio in good weather). The intimate Tasting Room is festooned with colorful Moroccan hats and the Treasury Room holds an antique vault where wealthy aristocrats once locked away their sterling and crystal. More than 1,000 wine labels adorn the walls of Magdalena's intimate Wine Cellar.
On our visit, a server in a purple striped shirt encouraged us to try a dish with scallops, explaining the shellfish were caught off the coast of Ocean City, a beach town in Maryland. The scallops were impossibly tender, sautéed in brown butter, with a medley of early spring vegetables including fingerlings, baby shitake mushrooms and succulent immature fava beans.
Showcasing these scallops, a rare local delicacy, epitomizes chef Levy's cooking style. His menus often nod to the bounty of the Mid-Atlantic, and he modifies his offerings depending on the freshest, most interesting options available to him.
Levy forages for scarce and unusual elements to craft his dishes, then plucks exquisite flavor from the luminous ingredients. Born in Britain, Levy has previously overseen kitchens in France, England and most recently, at The Point, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort in the Adirondacks.
Although the dinner menu is tightly edited, expect a wide range of cuisine, from excellent raw bar options to rack of lamb.
Come dessert, opt for dishes like a spring rhubarb sundae or wild fennel panna cotta.
At Magdalena, the team works harmoniously to orchestrate attentive, cordial service. Servers know which farm was sourced to make the creamy butter or procure the fresh produce — they also drop helpful tidbits like the salmon is smoked in house and the baked rolled are homemade fresh daily.
While it’s all very elegant, it’s also comfortable enough to drop in off the street without a reservation.
Magdalena’s bar offers a breadth of fine malt whiskeys and craft beers. Three sommeliers on staff spread their vino expertise, and the bartender makes superb custom cocktails. The team at Magdalena clearly shares a passion for serving exceptional, memorable food with gracious hospitality.