The Purple Orchid - A Cross-Cultural Delight

By Cathy Adams

     Richard Wong, chef of the Purple Orchid, pioneered French Oriental cuisine in Baltimore when he opened his Charles Street restaurant 16 years ago. The idea of East is East and West is West and never shall the twain meet fortunately does not apply in the kitchen. Both cuisines have a philosophy that has more in common than their disparate techniques and ingredients might lead one to believe.

     Wong started his career with a three-year hotel apprenticeship in his native Singapore and worked at major hotels and clubs before moving on to Bermuda. He came to Baltimore at the urging of a friend and ended up working at Chambord, one of Baltimore's premiere French restaurants in the early 80's.

     When he became interested in opening his own establishment, he decided to combine his experiences in both classical French and Oriental food for a menu that offers French, Oriental and "fusion" food.

     One of the best fusion dishes is Canard Bigarrade, a boned duckling cooked classic Peking duck style, paired with a light demi-glace with a touch of citrus. Trois Poisson, Napoleon Style an elaborate presentation of thinly sliced fried yam chips sandwiched with salmon, and two other fish of the day and served with a Lime and Lemon Beurre Blanc (a silky butter sauce) and Black Angus Steak Diane, a 14 ounce ribeye lightly coated with crushed black peppercorns and flamed with brandy are firmly based in French cuisine.

     Spicy Singapore Style Shrimp and Scallops, stir-fried with chili, bell peppers, pineapple and tomatoes in a delicate sweet and sour sauce served with Jasmine rice and Seafood Neptune, Hong Kong Style, stir-fried shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, lobster, calamari and fish of the day with an oyster sauce and served on a bed of angel hair pasta are classical Oriental dishes.

     "We don't give you a small, little piece of meat and charge you an enormous price. We're driven by our passion for cooking, not profit," said Wong. "We don't change the menu seasonally because we have lots of regular customers and they know what they want."

     Located in an old townhouse, the dining room has a marble fireplace and is broken up into smaller areas for coziness, with an upstairs dining room open during the weekend. The French-chinoiserie decor is understated enough not to be a distraction, instead creating a sense of well-being and comfort in addition to being well fed. Wong, and his brother Henry, also own and operate the Thai Noodle Bowl in the Light St. Harborplace Pavilion which offers different kinds of noodles in a fast food environment.

     The Purple Orchid, formerly known as The Orchid, changed its name several years ago to alleviate being confused with the Orchard restaurant. It created chaos when people would get the two names mixed up and would make reservations at one restaurant and show up at the other, wondering what happened to their reservation or the rest of their party.

French Brie and Mushroom Soup
makes 5-6 portions



  1. Bring stock, milk and shallots to simmer in sauce pan. Raise heat and bring to a rapid boil. Gradually add roux while constantly stirring with a whisk to keep from getting lumpy. (If there are any lumps, strain through a fine strainer at this point). The texture will become smoother and thicker as the roux thickens the soup.
  2. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms, spring onion and heavy cream and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat broiler. Portion soup into broiler-proof bowls and top each with 2 slices of brie. Broil underneath medium heat until brie is lightly browned.

    The Purple Orchid
    419 North Charles Street
    Baltimore, Maryland
    (410) 837-0080
    Appetizers and Salads: $4-7
    Entrees: $16-28
    Price Fixed Dinner: Tuesday through Sunday 5-6:30 $19

    Lunch: 11:30-2:30 Tuesday-Friday
    Dinner: 5-10:30 Tuesday-Thursday 5-11 Friday and Saturday 4-9:30 Sunday

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