January 24, 2013

Root 174

          For my birthday this year we decided to try a place that I have been wanting to go to since they opened, Root 174.  My wife and I met up with some friends and my brother for dinner.  From what I heard about this chef and his food I knew we picked a good spot for dinner.
          We passed by the restaurant a few times it was just a bit hard to see it was dark out and there weren't any lights on the sign and the sign is all dark colors but we had a general idea of where it was located so it wasn't that hard to find.  We arrived right on time for our reservations and were seated as soon as we got there.  The first thing I noticed  was that the place is pretty small, dark, and it gets really loud when it fills up.  After looking at the menu we decided to start off with the mussels and fried Brussels sprouts. At this time we also put in our entree order and caught up with each other.  Our appetizers came out and they smelled delicious,  the mussels were in a bowl covered with crispy shoestring frites and submerged in a fragrant chipotle tomato broth.   The sprouts were golden brown and piled high in a bowl.  The mussels were tender and the tomato broth paired so great with the salty mussels.  The broth had the right amount of heat to not overpower the dish but it lets you know its there.  There was some frisee tucked under the mussels, it was a pleasant surprise, the frisee soaked up the broth almost like how you would use bread.  The sprouts didn't disappoint either, they were fried and crispy on the outside and still had a bit of a natural crunch on the inside.  I am not a fan of soggy vegetables, I like them with some texture.  What I liked best about the sprouts was that they had a sauce that was sweet and peppery.  The sauce is listed as a bacon black pepper glaze but it almost tasted like a teriyaki sauce.  The sauce is what made the dish,  I couldn't tell you if the sprouts were sweet or if it was the sauce but it had a sweet start with a peppery ending.  If we left right then and there I would have been very, very happy.
          Soon after our entrees came out, I got the chicken and waffles, my wife got the char and my brother go the sirloin   Okay I have to admit I have never had chicken and waffles it always sounded weird to me.  Breakfast for dinner I thought okay lets do it.  Amazing.  It works, the dish was a yam and shredded chicken thigh waffle drizzled with a bourbon syrup topped with a roasted chicken breast and gingered deviled quail eggs.  The waffle itself wasn't too sweet and the syrup was a perfect combination of bourbon and syrup.  Everything just flowed together, it didn't feel like breakfast food at all, it was sweet, it was savory, it was the best of both worlds without going too far in one direction.  The gingered deviled eggs were a good combo too, it was the full circle of breakfast foods.
          The dish my wife and both of our friends went with was the char.  It was a crispy skinned char on top of kale with a cippolini onion sauce, harissa and an olive salad.  At the time I couldn't remember what harissa was and no one else at the table knew so they ordered it.  I remembered very fast when I put it in my mouth.  The char was very good, a nice cracker like skin, the fish itself tastes just like salmon.  The bitterness of the kale and brineyness of the olive salad made for a perfect bite with the fish.  When the harissa was added it made for a great bite when you know what harissa is and are prepared for it.  Harissa is a hot chili paste and when you are not ready for it the spiciness of the sauce takes you by surprise.  I love hot foods and this was really good, I was just very surprised, I wasn't expecting it on a light fish dish.  My brother tasted it and said I was a wuss but he was prepared I was not.  I am not a fan of cippolini onions but everyone else seemed to like them, so all in all a really good dish.
         It was my birthday so we decided to get some desserts, the options were flour-less chocolate cake, pumpkin roll and Nutella bread pudding.  Three pumpkin rolls, two chocolate cakes and zero Nutella is what our table ordered.  Pumpkin rolls are near the top of the list when it comes to my favorite desserts but anything Nutella is always high up there too, I could have tasted someone elses pumpkin roll thats all I am saying.  Anyways, the roll was deconstructed and was great, everything you would have expected from it, the pumpkin cake, the frosting and a citrus glaze.  The gaze by itself was not all that good, it was almost a bit bitter, but when everything was put together it brought a freshness to the roll.  The flour-less cake, I don't think the girls understood what a flour-less cake was.  The cake was super dense, almost like fudge, super chocolaty and came with a side of beet ice cream.  I tried a bit and I must say I am not a chocolate dessert person and I am not a beet fan at all, so I think I am not the right person to review the cake.  The girls liked the dessert they said everything paired well but they felt it really wasn't a cake.  Dessert like everything else from Root 174 was a success.
          Overall, this restaurant is a top destination for anyone who likes food in the Pittsburgh area.  The experience was one of the best I have had.  After I ate here I emailed Chef Fuller and asked to interview him for the Giant Eagle newsletter, I have to say he did not disappoint.  The food is creative, tasty and reasonably priced.  I will be back for sure, this restaurant is a top 3 for me.

Overall 9 of 10
Food 9.5 of 10
Price 9 of 10
Service 8.5 of 10

1113 South Braddock Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15218

Root 174 on Urbanspoon

January 2, 2013

Piccolo Forno Pizza

          So a little while back we wanted to go out to eat but we wanted somewhere cheaper so we decided to go back to Piccolo Forno for their pizza that we have heard so much about.  I already reviewed Piccolo Forno but the last time we were there they were out of pizza dough so we got their excellent pasta.
          My wife and I got to the restaurant at about six on a Saturday night and the wait was about an hour.  We were called about 45 minutes later and seated.  The waitress came over and told us the specials of he day and took our drink order.  She came back and we placed our order, we started with the meatballs and each got a pizza so we would have leftovers for the next day.  I don't normally eat leftovers but pizza and pretty much anything Italian I will make an exception for.  I got the Prosciutto e Rucola a pizza, it came with a tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula, my wife decided to get the special pizza of the day the white pizza with prosciutto and figs.
          Our starter, the meatballs, came out and looked really good, the dish consisted of three meatballs with pesto and grape tomatoes.  I cut one of the meatballs open and it just fell apart, they were really dry, not what I was expecting.  The flavor was really good in the dish and it all went well together but I just couldn't get over how dry the meatballs were.  The pesto and tomatoes lent some moisture to the dish but not enough.  I just wasn't expecting this after our last visit.
          The pizza came out a few minutes later and looked really good.  The crust on the pizza was very thin but not crispy like I would expect it, mine was kind of droopy in the middle.  My pizza was good though, the sauce was a bit on the sweet side but it balanced out nicely with the salty prosciutto and peppery arugula.  I wasn't blown away by this pizza, I have made this exact pizza at home before and it tasted almost the same, except my sauce isn't as sweet.  My wives pizza, she finally made the mistake it wasn't me, she usually points to an item on the menu and gets lucky.  This time her dish wasn't bad but it was a weird combination.  It was a white pizza with four different types of cheeses topped with prosciutto and figs. The figs were so sweet it really ruined the pizza.  She ended up taking the figs off the pizza and she said it was really good.  I tried a piece and I must say it was weird, overly sweet almost like a dessert pizza.  Next time I think she would just go for the regular white pizza.
          Overall the meal was good, nothing great but a solid meal.  I found that so odd, the last time we went we got the pasta and it was great but no one talks about the pasta.  Everyone makes a big deal about the pizza, but if you make fresh pizza at home I really don't think there is a huge difference between the two.  I will be back to Piccolo Forno but I just think I will be getting the pasta.

Overall 6.5 of 10
Food 6 of 10
Service 7 of 10 
Price 7 of 10

3801 Butler St.
Pittsburgh PA 15201

Piccolo Forno on Urbanspoon

December 5, 2012

La Gourmandine

          So I know it has been awhile since I have written anything, it has been hard since going back to school.  I am going back to school and and really haven't had the time to sit down and write about any place we have been to lately.  Hopefully I will be getting a few more posts up over Christmas break.
          I interviewed a local French baker for the November Market District Newsletter, after talking to him I figured I would drop by and try the food one day for lunch.  I found the address on google maps and had a general idea of where this place was, if I didn't go to the website I don't think I would have found this bakery.  The sign outside has a big fancy G that is the only thing you can read when you are driving down the road, it was the same symbol they had on their website so I knew it was the right place.  I found a spot on the street to park and got in line for lunch.  One of the reasons I probably never heard of this place is because they are only open for breakfast and lunch.  I don't typically go out for lunch so that could be why I have never been here.  When you walk in there is a counter full of sweet pastries and behind the counter they have all of the fresh breads.  They don't have a big selection for lunch, its your choice between five sandwiches and a ton of sweets.  They also have quiche for lunch but to me that is more of a breakfast thing.
          I chose the le campagnard for lunch (turkey sandwich), I finished off the lunch with a tarte aux fruits (fresh fruit tart).  I took home a foaccia garnie (basically a foaccia pizza).  Everything was so simple and yet so delicious.  The turkey sandwich was all about the bread, it had a thick outer crust on the outside yet it was soft and chewy on the inside.  The sandwich had tomato, lettuce and mayo on it, the toppings were fresh but the turkey was just anything you could buy at the grocery store.  For how much time is put into the bread I would just like to see the same quality in the meat on the sandwich.
          The foaccia was really good as well, the bread was light and airy.  The cheese was like the cheese on a pizza, it was a bit crunchy but not burnt by the crust, I love that part of the pizza.  The fresh basil and tomato sauce in the middle just made me think of a thick cut pizza.  It was a room temperature, almost like a day old pizza but with fresh ingredients.  If this bread was hot out of the oven I guess they would just call it pizza.
          The tart, simple, very simple.  The best tart or just dessert I think I have ever had.  A buttery crust that didn't crumble when you picked it up, the vanilla custard was rich and thick and didn't overpower the butter in the crust or the sweetness of the fruit.  The custard wasn't too watery which meant it didn't soak into the crust and let the crust hold up when it was picked up.  All of this was topped with simple sliced strawberries and whole blueberries.  It was perfect.  I don't know how else to explain it, one of the best things I have eaten.
          Would I go back?  I have been back a few time, I just love their bread.  The food there is fresh and about the same price as any fast food restaurant.  Like I said if they put homemade meats on their sandwiches it would put these simple sandwiches over the top.  The breads and sweets are more than reason enough to go back.  If you can get out for lunch in Lawrenceville this is one of the places I would recommend for sure.  If your looking for fancy this isn't it, if your looking for cheap really good lunch food you need to give this place a try.  I think why more people don't talk about this place is because it is only open for breakfast and lunch.

Food 7 of 10
Price 9.5 of 10
Service 9 of 10
Overall 8 of 10

4605 Butler St
Lawrenceville, PA

La Gourmandine on Urbanspoon

August 26, 2012


          So I was in a meeting last week and we started talking about food, I wasn't planning on going out but after talking that is all I could think about.  I have heard wonderful things about Stagioni so I figured we could give it a try.  I was hoping that this place would live up to the reputation I have heard.
          When you step inside you notice that it is very very simple and rustic nothing flashy at all.  We were told we were going to be seated upstairs and were taken up.  The upstairs is just like the downstairs, simple and rustic, closed in fireplaces and simple older lights.  When we sat down something didn't feel right and my wife started laughing at me, either the tables are too short or the chairs are too high.  I am a tall and bigger guy so a lot looks small next to me but I looked like a giant in these chairs.
          We ordered our appetizer and got the fresh mozzarella ball, at that time we also placed our entree orders, the wife got the jumbo shrimp and I got the quail.  Our mozzarella came out a few minutes later and you could feed a table of four with this dish.  The ball was about the size of a softball with four large slice of heirloom tomatoes under it sprinkled with basil and it had a balsamic drizzle on top.  The cheese was soft, buttery, creamy and still a bit warm from the water when it arrived at our table.  Just like any caprese salad all the ingredients worked together, the real kicker was the balsamic, it just really heightened the taste of the the basil and tomato.  The cheese would have been a good appetizer by itself but everything else made it a dish to remember.
          A few minutes after we were done with our appetizer the entrees came out.  I have never had quail before but I heard it is out of this world.  When the entrees came out I noticed like everything else there just how simple they were.  It almost looked like you could make it at home with no problem at all, after you taste it you understand you can't.  The quail were so favorable, they are unlike any other poultry I have ever had.  The breast is cooked like a duck breast to a nice medium and the meat is so tender and juicy.  The flavor of the quail was sweeter than chicken with earthy undertones to it.  Under the quail was an arugula salad with olives and homemade croutons.  By the time you get the dish the croutons are a bit soggy but I think that enhances the dish because they soak up the juices of the quail bringing the flavors to the salad.  The arugula is dressed simply with oil and vinegar which when I am at home I always think I hate it but when I get it when I am out I love it.  The saltiness of the olives mixed with the mild pepper in the arugula paired to make the perfect simple salad.  After I was done I asked the waitress what was on the quail because I tasted garlic all throughout the meal, she said just salt and pepper.  Either the croutons had garlic, I am crazy or she was wrong, I am going to go with option number 1.  But my wife would probably say its option number 2. 
          My wife got the shrimp and that came with gnocchi. The shrimp were pretty big, grilled with a bit of char on them and the gnocchi were of the potato variety.  The gnocchi were soft and starchy, they were mixed with grape tomatoes and parsley.  I really didn't get much of a chance to taste it being that I was in heaven with my quail.  I did get a little bite in and I must say again simple but good.  The sweet shrimp with the starch of the gnocchi and the acid in the tomatoes made for a dish that didn't disappoint at all.
          Overall this place is a top three for me here in Pittsburgh.  They have salt and pepper on the tables here but I bet they don't spend much money refilling them, everything was spot on.  I would suggest going down during the week because I have to say we spent about ten minutes looking for a parking spot on the weekend I bet it is more simple to find a spot during the week.  Other than the weird height of the tables I must say everything was perfect.  I would go back here for sure.  Everything here is simple, simple food, simple atmosphere.  It is so simple most people screw it up by trying to make it fancy, they know their food is good and don't try to do too much.

Food 9 of 10
Price 9.5 of 10
Service 8.5 of 10
Overall 9 of 10

2104 East Carson St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Stagioni on Urbanspoon

August 16, 2012

Restaurant ECHO

          My wife and I were in Cranberry visiting her grandmother I noticed this big new restaurant called ECHO.  It was huge but the parking lot looked empty but it always stuck with me.  I started to look into it and it had good reviews and the menu looked interesting.  Then a few weeks ago livingsocial.com had a coupon for ECHO.  I figured what the heck I have been thinking about it so lets go give it a try.
          When you arrive you notice that the parking lot looks empty from the road, its not.  There is a bunch of parking on the side and around the back, so it is pretty busy it just doesn't look like it from the road.  We decided to go there because of the menu, it had some items I wanted to try like bone marrow.  When we arrived it seemed like we picked the wrong week because they were opening their bistro and had a $10 special going on.  They cut down on their fine dining menu to compensate for the business of the bistro.  Almost everything I wanted to try was cut off the menu including the marrow.
          Once we were seated in the dining room our waiter came over and told us the specials and took our drink order.  When he left I looked around, we were the only people in the dining room, everyone else was in the bistro, it was weird.  For our appetizers my wife got the sausage stuffed figs and I got the soup special the gazpacho.  It took a very long time for the appetizers to come out, I don't know if it was because of the bistro or what.  When the appetizers did come out my wives dish was really good, she got three figs stuffed with italian sausage and wrapped in prosciutto.  The figs were earthy and sweet almost like a pear, the sausage had a bit of spice and the prosciutto added the saltiness to round out the flavors.  The balsamic vinegar was excellent, it didn't overpower the dish it was more of a back note to bring the dish together.  The gazpacho I had I really didn't like.  To me a gazpacho is tomato, cucumber and something to thicken the juice either bread or yogurt.  All this dish was, was tomato juice and a bit of spice.  It was far too watery and needed the cucumber juice to cut through the acidity in the tomato juice.  It was almost like V8 in a dish with a garnish of corn.
          For our entrees my wife got he pappardelle with lamb and again what I wanted was cut for the bistro opening so I got the Filet Mignon.  The lamb dish was so good, the pasta was made in house and cut almost as thick as a lasagna noodle.  The noodles soaked up the sauce which made them so much better just by themselves.  The lamb shoulder was fork tender and just fell apart in you mouth.  The little chunks of squash and white asparagus gave a nice freshness to the heavy lamb and pasta while the sage demi-glace just pulled all the notes on the plate together.
          My filet was cooked a perfect medium rare and just melt in your mouth tender.  The wilted cucumbers I thought were a bit weird at first but if they would have been cold it would have ruined the dish.  The cucumbers gave the dish a freshness and still a crunchy texture.  The asparagus were cooked perfectly and I just love how well asparagus and steak go together, the flavors just pair so well.  The potatoes on my dish were the only thing I didn't like.  They were under cooked and hard in the middle.  I just like my potatoes cooked through, they don't have to be falling apart tender but I don't want to have to use a steak knife to cut them, I feel a side of a fork should do it.
          Overall this was a good, fresh and local dinner.  I was disappointed that they cut the menu down because of the opening of the bistro but I understand.  Would I go back?  Yes, if I were in the area.  I wouldn't go out of my way to get there but the food was good and I like how they try to get everything local.  I have to say don't let the parking lot deceive you, there are people there the lot is just way too big.

Price 7 of 10
Food 8 of 10
Service 8 of 10
Overall 7.5 of 10

1740 Rt. 228
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

Restaurant ECHO on Urbanspoon

August 1, 2012

Chalkboard Cafe

          About a week ago a restaurant opened up about two blocks from my house, I was really excited because I was hoping it would be a good simple comfort food place.  They have been working on this restaurant forever, pouring a ton of money into it, so I am thinking hey this place just might surprise me. My wife, some friends and I went there about a week after it opened, and I must say it did surprise me.
          Okay, I am not one to blast a restaurant, I always try to find something good to talk about, this isn't one of those reviews.  It was warm out when we decided to go to Chalkboard and when we stepped inside I think it was hotter inside than outside.  You would think with all the money they put into the place air conditioning would have worked itself in there somewhere.  I don't mind sweating if it is for some good food, at this point I had my doubts but I was still optimistic.
          We sat down and our waiter came over and took our drink order and as he was walking away he said "oh yah we only have one salmon salad left so if you want it you better order it now".  It is 6ish on a Friday how are you out of anything already?  There was a tiny chalkboard over the doorway with about five main courses on it, this is when I started thinking what have we done.  When we were ordering the kitchen door opened up and you heard the cook say we only have two turkey left.  So let me get this straight you have five main courses and two are gone already? Hmmmmm...  Whatever we are here and we are going to try it.  My wife got the shrimp scampi pasta and everyone else got the pulled pork sandwiches, I also got a side salad with my sandwich.  This is where my patience and optimism ends for this story.  My salad come out and it is very tiny ($4) and I can not mix the dressing around without the salad falling on the table because the plate was so small, so I just dumped the dressing on top.  First off it is salad from a bag and when I get to the bottom of the dish there was a green/brown slime under the lettuce.  It was frozen and thawed, I know this because I have done it accidently at home, frozen lettuce that is thawed out turns into a goo.  I told the waiter and he said they would take it off the bill, no sorry or anything, then he asked me if I wanted another, nope not at all.
          Our mains came out and I will start with the wives dish, five shrimp on some pasta, done.  Nothing else, oh wait there was a single basil leaf on top, the pasta was so bland, no salt in the pasta water at all.  All I could taste when I tried her pasta was oil and onions.  Why onions in a scampi dish, beats me.  The shrimp my wife said were ok, but I didn't try them being that there were only five ($11). The pulled pork sandwiches were ok on the flavor but way too much sauce on them.  The sandwiches were so sauced up the bun fell apart, they could have somewhat avoided this by toasting the bun first.  After a few bites all I was getting was fat and soggy bun so I was done with that.  The sandwich came with a side of a half ear of corn, how can you screw up corn?  They did, dry and tasteless corn which tasted like it has been left out under a heat lamp all day.  I just don't get how you make corn so bad it is so simple.
          After all this we decided to leave and get some pizza at a local pizza place.  We paid more than we wanted to that night just because we paid for two dinners.  The best part of the night my friend introduced me to a pizza place I didn't know about that had awesome pizza.  When we got home I posted on their Facebook page about how bad the dinner was, it got deleted and I got banned from the page.  There was no hey sorry about the food, nothing, just delete and ban.  Most restaurants start out great and fade off because they can't afford the quality of food after awhile in a small town.  This place just decided they would just start off that way.  I wish someone would give me some money to open a place I could cook better with my eyes closed.
          Look, I didn't go there expecting five star food, all I wanted was someplace close that I could get some quality comfort food.  I really didn't expect to be eating pizza by the end of the night.  In my opinion I wouldn't ever recommend someone to eat here, save your money and cook yourself.  Needless to say this place did surprise me just not how I wanted to be surprised.

Food 1 of 10
Service 2 of 10
Price 3 of 10
Overall 1 of 10

800 10th Ave
Brackenridge, PA 15014

Chalkboard Cafe on Urbanspoon
Sorry no pics I just wanted to leave.

July 24, 2012

Dish Osteria and Bar

          A few weeks ago my wife and I decided to go out to Dish, my cousin said they have some of the best Italian food around here.  I love Italian food so this was a no brainer.
          When we got down to the South Side I was expecting this place to be in or near the South Side Works, it was not even close.  It was extremely hard to find parking down there on the side streets.  I ended up taking my chances parking in a permit only section.  If your not looking you would never find Dish, it is on some side street and just looks like it would be an apartment building other than the small sign on the wall.
          The first thing I noticed when we walked in was how small it was, it probably seats 30 people 40 tops.  There is a bar when you first walk in and the restaurant is in the room behind the bar, it has a very homie feel to it.  Our waiter came over and told us the specials for the day and took our appetizer order.  All of the appetizers sounded great and we finally came to agreement on the bruschetta.  The bruschetta was three slices of toasted cibatta bread topped with sauteed mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and basil on top of prosciutto.  I am not a huge fan of mushrooms but if you can make mushrooms taste like that I would eat them all day long.
          For our main dishes my wife got the Linguine ai Frutti di Mare and I got the Grigliata Mista di Pesce.  My wives dish was excellent, a very simple sauce of white wine, olive oil, garlic and parsley over linguine.  There was seafood tossed with the pasta and included shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels and cockles.  All of the seafood was sweet and salty, the sauce was present but not overpowering.  This dish felt like something I would imagine you could get at any house in Italy.  My dish was a bit different, I don't want to call it bad because it wasn't it just had one consistent flavor.  My dish was grilled seafood with a saffron risotto and eggplant caponata.  The risotto was excellent, very creamy but not mushy, the saffron gave it the beautiful golden color along with the unique taste and fragrance that is so hard to describe.  The eggplant caponata was alright, a bit too many tomatoes for me but cooked lovely and really paired well with the risotto.  Where this dish really died for me was with the seafood.  All I could taste was the grill, it wasn't like they were charred or anything but everything tasted the same.  The calamari was the only thing that tasted different, it was really salty but it went well with the acid in the tomatoes.  The shrimp and scallops were cooked perfectly but the fish was overcooked and a bit on the dry side.  In the end all of the seafood on my dish just ended up tasting the same.
          We did get desserts while we were there but we forgot to take pictures, my wife got the chocolate bread pudding and I got the cannolis.  The bread pudding was so rich and chocolaty if you are a chocolate lover this is the dessert for you.  The cannolis were great, they were filled with a sweetened ricotta, pistachio and candied orange peel filling.  It was a perfect paring the saltiness of the pistachio with the sweetness of the ricotta and a hint of orange all in a little crunch cannoli shell.  I would have to say dessert was the best part of the meal.
          Would I go back?  I don't know.  Everything was good, service was good, price was right in line with everyone else.  I was just disappointed with my main dish.  If they can make the seafood so good for my wives dish and then all of my seafood tastes the same it makes me question, did I get a bad dish or what exactly happened?  I am going to have to go back so that I can get some answers.  I am not going to say it was great there are better restaurants around but this is a solid place.

Price 8 of 10
Food 7 of 10
Service 9 of 10
Overall 7.5 of 10

128 South 17th St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203

Dish Osteria & Bar on Urbanspoon

June 26, 2012

Andy's Sushi Bar

          Okay so I am fairly new to the whole sushi thing but I have had it a few times now and I feel that I know the basics now.  I don't know what it is but raw fish and meat used to and still does scare me a bit, I still won't eat beef tartar just because its a bit weird to me.  I guess I just have to work up to the beef thing but I am all about sushi now.
          I went to the Strip District last week to get all the food down there I can't get around where I live.  Every time I am down there now I get Sushi, I have tried different kinds from different places but it seems like I always end up back at Andy's little stall at Wholey's Fish Market.
          When I was down there I was first in line around 10 AM, Andy was still getting everything ready to go, filling up cups of soy and stuff like that.  He asked me to wait while he finished up and we talked about his food and how he goes about making everything.  He is a bit hard to understand because he has a very rough accent but he is very knowledgeable and very funny.  He asked what I wanted, I said a spicy tuna and a salmon roll, he said that he had two specials and I should get one of each of them.  Who am I to argue, he is the Sushi man.  So the specials were a spicy tuna with kiwi roll and a salmon with mango roll.  It amazes me to watch him work I could just stay there all day and watch him work.  He got his mats out and started packing the rice on the seaweed then he started cutting all the ingredients up.  Everything is fresh there, almost nothing out of a bin or container, fresh kiwi, mango, cucumber and avocado cut right before you.  As he was making the tuna roll he pulled out a smoked scallop and stared slicing it up really thin, he said "first customer get special treat".  He put the scallop on the roll then pulled out another one cut it in half put a mint leaf on it and a squirt of sauce and handed it to me.  It was really good, sweet and smokey with sweet mint and a spicy sesame sauce.
          He put together both rolls and the tuna had smoked tuna, raw tuna and smoked scallops on it along with cucumber, kiwi, avocado, mint and sriracha.  The salmon was a bit more simple raw salmon, mango, avocado, cucumber and mint.  I also got two of his spring rolls which he makes ahead of time because there is nothing raw in them just cooked shrimp and raw vegetables.  I asked him if he could put that spicy sesame  sauce on the rolls that was on the scallop, he said whatever you want big guy.
          I have to admit I can't use chopsticks, I have tried I just can't get the hang of it so I went straight for the fork when I got home.  These were some of the best sushi rolls I have ever had, like I said I am new to sushi but I have had enough to know these were some of the best I have had.  The sweetness of the fruit and the heat of the sauce mellowed out by the vegetables and rice could be enough by itself but add the fish and it just put it over the top.  The tuna was smokey and sweet with the scallops and the salmon I don't know how to explain it, it just tasted fresh, there was nothing fishy about it.
          I can't believe it took me this long to start eating sushi.  I will be going back to Andy's as long as I go to the Strip or until Andy's closes.  I know at lunch time the line can get pretty long but it is worth the wait for sure, top quality product and an affordable price.  Now just to get over my fear of raw red meat, that may take a while longer to get to.

Overall 9 of 10
Food 9 of 10
Price 9 of 10
Service 10 of 10

1711 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Andy's Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

May 3, 2012


          I have been wanting to go to Cure since I heard about it opening up and we finally got around to going there last weekend.  I have been putting it off because the winter menu really didn't have a lot that appealed to my wife.  I checked online and an updated spring menu was up and I knew it was time to go.  Complex and not everyday meats for me, simple and tasty food for the wife.
          When we arrived it was pretty empty but it was still early.  The dining room is small and simple, barn wood on the walls, copper on the ceiling and pigs everywhere.  The first thing I noticed was that the menu was different that what was online and I was kind of upset about that because I knew what I wanted and it was no longer on the menu.  I will eat anything though so I got over it pretty quick, but if I were someone that went there for a specific dish and it wasn't on there I would be pissed.  The menu looked awesome either way.
          We started with the Bolognese and the Scallops for our starters.  My scallops were perfectly cooked to medium and were paired with a Bearnaise sauce and topped with asparagus and pieces of duck speck.  The smokey saltiness of the speck paired with the sweetness of the scallops worked wonders with the creamyness of the Bearnaise sauce.  That dish started the night off on the right foot, I could have had a big dish of that and would have been fine for the night.  My wives Bolognese was also pretty good, it was a black garlic ravioli topped with a Bolognese sauce and chili oil and pancetta.  The garlic almost had a balsamic taste to it and I don't know exactly was in the Bolognese sauce but chef Justin should start canning it and selling it.
          Now for the entrees, I got the 'This is what you came for' dish and my wife got the gnocchi.  The gnocchi were really good they were soft and starchy topped with a ramp pesto sauce.  The dish also had chunks of hot Italian sausage that gave it a nice spice to go with the ramp pesto.  My wife loved it and said that it was better than anything I have ever made or bought at the store.  My feelings were hurt but she was right.  Now for the main attraction, 'This is what you came for', cocky but true.  Clockwise starting at 12, beer sausage, sweetbreads, pork belly confit, pigs feet I don't know what to call it, it was like a crab cake but with pigs feet.  The yellow sauce is a hollandaise sauce infused with foie gras and the white is some type of pure on mushrooms.  All topped with pickled royal trumpet mushrooms, ramps and fiddlehead ferns.  Okay I could write a few pages on this dish alone but I will give you the highlights.  Sweetbreads, never had them before, a bit chewy but full of a strong pork flavor, I really don't know how else to explain them.  Pork belly confit, bacon on roids, second best thing on the plate, crispy outside with a fork tender inside.  It was smokey a bit fatty but perfectly cooked, just the way it should be.  Beer sausage, I didn't think it had much flavor and was a bit on the dry side.  When paired with sauces and the pickled vegetables the flavors all came together to create a really good bite.  Pigs feet cake we will call it, best thing on the plate.  A really strong pork flavor and really salty.  It was like shredded pork formed into a ball and fried.  It was soft, flakey and had bis of meat all through it, this part of the dish paired the best with the pickled mushrooms, salty, earthy and that taste of vinegar.  I really don't know how else to explain this dish.  The pickled mushrooms were different but good, they were earthy mixed with the vinegar, it was needed to cut through all the saltiness of the pork.  I really didn't do this dish justice with my words, you really need to go and try it for yourself.
          In the end everything was really good.  Where else can you go and get house cured meats around here.  The only suggestion I would have it to make sure to update the menu online so everyone knows what they have to choose from.  The dish I really wanted to try was taken off the knot weed dish but the scallops were so good it almost puts the other dish out of my mind.  In the end Justin can put out whatever menu he wants because it doesn't matter everything was top notch.  The food was great, the service was great and it was an all around good time, I just wish I didn't wait so long to visit this place.  Now Justin if you read this you have to give me the Bolognese recipe or start canning it, I'm sure we can work something out.

Overall 9 of 10
Food 9 of 10
Service 9.5 of 10
Price 8.5 of 10

5336 Butler St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Cure on Urbanspoon

April 6, 2012

Bite Bistro

          My wife and I decided to go out Saturday and give Bite Bistro a try.  I have heard really good things about Bite Bistro and have wanted to visit them for awhile but I am never down that way.  I have to tell you if I drove by this place and didn't know that they served good food I would keep driving.  There is a tiny chalkboard on the sidewalk and sign in the window that says Bite Bistro and that is it.  The interior didn't look much better, some random pictures and paintings on the wall with no real purpose, it just has that dive feel to it.
          We had reservations for 6 but got there early at 5:30  and they sat us right away which was nice rather than having to wait.  They have a chalkboard menu at Bite and everything on it sounded great.  I must say that they have a lot of vegan and vegetarian options which is different than most places that have the one vegetarian dish and that's it.  We took a risk and got the four course tasting menu.  Everything I got was different than what my wife got and our waiter told us that was to make sure we shared to get all the flavors, so really it was like an eight course tasting.
          Our salad course came out first and I got the beet salad and my wife got some type of deconstructed salad also.  The beet salad was okay, everything was pretty much one flavor.  The pickled beets were great they had a sweet  flavor and were nice and crunchy.  The rest of the beets on the plate really had no flavor, the sliced beets, beet pure and the beet powder were all just one flavor and really mild flavor at that.  My wife's dish I really didn't taste it, it had pickled bets also with cauliflower and olive dust on it.  The dish looked good and my wife liked it but I can't comment on the taste of it.
          Second course was the soup course, I received a miso soup with parsley oil and my wife got a carrot soup with diced apples.  My wife loved the carrot soup after wanting to switch me before she even tasted it because she thought she wouldn't like it. It was a thick carrot soup with a nice natural sweetness and the apples paired well with the carrots.  The thickness of this soup I would almost compare to a porridge.  My miso soup was so salty it was hard to get past a few spoonfuls.  The soup had wonderful flavors especially when you got a drop of the parsley oil in your spoon.  The salt killed the soup though it was overbearing and it took almost a full glass of water to get the taste out of my mouth.  I know miso is supposed to be salty but this was like someone dropped the box of salt in the soup.
          Our main course was next and I got the seared duck breast and my wife got something that wasn't even on the menu, braised pig cheeks.  My duck was some of the best duck I have ever had.  The skin was crispy, it still had a thin layer of fat underneath, and it was cooked perfectly.  The duck was juicy and tender and like I said it was the best I have had.  Under the duck was granola, brussels and a carrot pure.  The granola was strange but was awesome, it was almost like rice under the breast because it soaked up the juices and the carrots but it was crunchy where it wasn't touching anything.  The brussels were firm and still had a nice crunch, they were not over cooked at all.  The carrot pure gave the dish the sweetness it needed to pull it all the elements together.  My wife's dish was different but really good.  On her dish was three pig cheeks over a potato and white bean hash topped with wilted kale.  The cheeks were fork tender and tasted just like a pork roast would.  The has was something that you would love to have at breakfast and worked great with the cheeks.  It was a new twist on a classic meat and potato dish.  The kale was coked in the miso soup which added a very nice salty aspect to the dish along with the bitterness of the kale.  What really pulled the dish together was the pan gravy that was under everything, again it was just like a deconstructed pork pot roast classic dinner with a twist.
          Lastly was the dessert dish, I got the grapefruit sorbet while my wife got the cheese plate.  When I think of dessert I think of sweet and sticky.  Needless to say we were a bit disappointed with the chefs choices but oh well that is what happens when you get the tasting menu.  The cheese plate was a blue cheese topped with thinly sliced apples, honey and candied walnuts.  The cheese was creamy but it wasn't a really strong blue cheese.  The sweetness of the honey and walnuts complemented the pungent taste of the cheese.  Overall it was a pretty good dish for a savory dessert.  My grapefruit sorbet was very tart.  I have never been a fan of grapefruit so this dish wasn't my favorite but I will do my best to review it.  It was tart fresh red grapefruit topped with the grapefruit sorbet with a grapefruit foam on top.  It was all the same flavor the whole way through just different textures.  The sorbet was nice it wasn't overly frozen so it wasn't like a slushy.  The foam was different, it was hard but as soon as it touched your tongue it melted.
          Would I go back?  For sure, all of the dishes didn't impress me but the duck shows what they can do.  When we go back I think we will just order off the menu, that way I know we are getting something we will like for sure.  The tasting menu was an experience for sure and if you are adventurous this is the way to go.  The decor leaves a lot to be desired but the food makes up for that.  It is a bit out of the way but it was worth the trip.

Overall 8.5 of 10
Price 9.5 of 10
Food 8 of 10 
Service 8 of 10

565 Lincoln Ave
Bellevue, PA 15202

Bite Bistro on Urbanspoon