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Friday, June 10, 2016

Apteka


"Apteka" is polish for drug dispensary. I guess people must be running out of restaurant names, but the establishment itself does have a sort of pharmacy-esq je ne sais quoi. The white cement block walls are largely barren and the decor is simple. A true reminder of what it must have been like to live in Eastern Europe during the cold war. The food, however, is very exotic.

Pictured above are three separate vegetable tartines and an apple tart featuring some sour cherries. The tartines provided a great array of fresh and flavorful ingredients and they were easily the best dish I tried during my visit. They are somewhat difficult to describe as each had a different type of bean or pesto spread, a different vegetable topping and very unique flavors. The apple tart was also quite delightful. You really can't go wrong with sour cherries. Overall, I would say that the food at Apteka could be one of the best pure vegetarian options available in Pittsburgh.

I generally find it very difficult to get excited by restaurants that don't serve meat as it always seems that many of the offerings attempt to mimic the flavor and texture of meat. (IE tofu scramble, seitan chicken wings or bean burgers.) Apteka on the other hand offers authentic old-world style dishes that really don't lack in any way from the exclusion of meat products.

Do you spell it pirogi, perogie, pierogi, pyrogy or perogy?
They offer two types of pierogi, a saurkraut and mushroom and a smoked potato with parsnip and turnip greens. I honestly thought I would prefer the saurkraut pierogi, but the smoked potato was so unique that it was absolutely may favorite. Homemade pierogis are always a treat and these are some of the best in the city.

On a Thursday night the line for Apteka was out the door. Additionally, their staff is still working out the kinks and service was not great. Soon it looks like they will be opening an outdoor patio and I can only imagine that the quality of the service improves as the restaurant finds its bearings. Give it a month or so. Also, be sure to try the tequila drink with wildflower, lime and orange.


 Apteka Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, May 27, 2016

Revel and Roost - Hilton Garden Inn (Market Square)



Royale Seafood Platter
My father is a real seafood man. I've seen the old-fatty order seafood platters at restaurants all over the country. I've witnessed him bask in delight while enjoying a $70 platter at an upscale restaurant in New York and wither in pain after consuming the $11 seafood platter from Eat n Park. I actually just had dinner with him this weekend and he was telling me about some seafood platter he ordered recently. The man is a machine.

It must be a Pittsburgh vernacular phenomenon. I'm accustomed to the phrase, "seafood platter" as well as the more formal, "plateaux de fruits de mer." However, I am not accustomed to the phrase, "seafood tower." It seems that in many parts of the country the dish is called a seafood tower. Revel and Roost offers three different sizes of towers, petite ($24), grande ($36) and royale ($55). Pictured above is the royale.

The shrimp and lobster were actually quite good, but the clams and oysters did not seem very fresh. Indeed, the quantity and quality of seafood was a bit disappointing for the price. Also noticeably missing were the uni (fish roe) that were promised by the menu.

My initial reaction was outrage, then I remembered that I ordered a seafood tower at a hotel bar with a poultry theme name that is over 350 miles from the ocean. Indeed, the poultry theme name is quite appropriate. (Albeit for no reason as the server told me the name had nothing to do with Pittsburgh history.)

Right next door to Revel and Roost was a restaurant called George Aiken's Chicken. Now, any old timey yinzer would know the place. But in this age of royale seafood towers, such treasures have been forgotten. The really interesting thing about George Aiken's Chicken is that they were the subject of a copyright lawsuit that went before the United States Supreme Court and forever changed the landscape of radio public broadcast royalties.

So when you dine at Revel and Roost, you are really participating in the great history of American jurisprudence. However, I recommend avoiding the seafood tower and enjoying some fried cheese curds.

Revel + Roost Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Muddy Waters Oyster Bar

Oysters
When I approach a new bar, I generally have three major concerns. Where will I sit, what shall I eat and what do I drink?

So here is the straight up dope on Muddy Waters Oyster Bar. For happy hour you can get $1 east coast oysters or $2 west coast oysters. The $2 oysters were noticeably better, however, they were not an entire $1 better. How would I quantify such a thing you might ask?

 It was easy, I simply made an off-the-cuff determination that I would rather have spent my $1 on an extra oyster as opposed to a marginally better oyster. The oysters were fresh, flavorful and presented in a lovely manner. A vast improvement over Revel and Roost. Keep in mind that the raw bar menu changes daily, but always come prepared with a solid game plan. Now that you have a dining strategy, let's talk drinks.

During happy hour, you can get $10 off any selection under "Bubbles" on the menu. Your selection is a no brainer. You're going to go with the Lamberti Prosecco which comes to roughly $18 a bottle after the happy hour discount. Not only is it entirely acceptable, it is also the cheapest bottle on the menu. Here's why you are better off ordering the cheapest bottle of wine on a menu as opposed to the second cheapest:

"Avoid the second cheapest bottle on a wine list as, in most restaurants, this is the one the restaurateur pays the least for. Safe in the knowledge that customers don’t want to appear tight, owners tend to put the cheapest wine at a price slightly higher than the house wine – thus making the most profit. In most cases, the house wine will be better and cheaper."

HOT CHICKEN
If you aren't the sea-faring type, go with the hot chicken. You will be treated to some delightfully succulent chicken served with collard greens, sweet pickles, dirty rice and white bread. It didn't pair particularly well with the prosecco, but who cares. Pictured above was my small taste of a happy hour guest's half chicken, it was remarkable. A perfect amount of heat and oh oh so moist.

So now we have just one last inquiry: where should you sit?

Outside Seating
You will, of course, be arriving early to snag the outside seating. In addition to the excellent service you will receive as the coveted face of the bar, you will be the talk of the town as you slam Prosecco and oysters with your friends. Happy hunting restaurant-goer! 

Muddy Waters Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

SCRATCH - Troy Hill

Mushroom Crostini
Scratch is one of the newer Pittsburgh restaurants that I've seen mentioned as an up and comer time and time again. I've probably dined with them about half a dozen times now and the most impressive aspect of the bar has to be the owner's commitment to using locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes routinely and I've even seen it change multiple times in the same week. 

On my last visit Scratch had decided to go vegetarian for Earth Day. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed as I had a craving for a greasy burger. (Earth day be damned. Sometimes I just want a burger.) The mushroom crostini was my consolation prize. I thought that the goat cheese and mushrooms were excellent, but I was a little surprised by the amount of parsley. (The easy fix was to throw that parsley in the garbage.)

Leek and Potato
 The leek and potato appetizer has a base of pureed purple potatoes and it is topped with sauteed leeks, crispy fingerling potatoes and a healthy serving of brie cheese. This was absolutely without a doubt one of the best dishes I've tried this year. The picture simply cannot do this creation justice. The combination of flavors and textures was simply outstanding.

Also, I should mention that Scratch has some great beer specials and a wonderful staff. Overall, I think it is one of the best bars to open in Pittsburgh in the last year.

Scratch Food & Beverage Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, April 22, 2016

Poros - Market Square

Lamb Kibbeh
Poros is a newer addition to Market Square that you basically can't miss. The glamorous facade and beautiful restaurant interior bring a certain elegance to Market Square -- an elegance that was certainly lacking back in the 90's when Market Square was a haven for drug addicts, miscreants and women of the night. The new Market Square has become a family friendly playground boasting public art installations, fun activities, a number of bars and fine restaurants and of course, Poros.

Poros will break your wallet. Their only happy hour special is on Wednesday, fish is literally sold by the ounce and the prices are comparable to restaurants found in much larger cities. That being said, I believe the food is worth every penny.

Pictured above is the raw lamb kibbeh ($11) which is served with egg yolk, fennel, onion, farro and capers. The only place that I have ever seen raw kibbeh is at the mercy meals held by my Lebanese family after funerals. As a child I was totally put off by the dish, as an adult I wish I could indulge in raw kibbeh every night. The Kibbeh from poros had a magnificent texture and the various flavors and ingredients created a memorable dining experience. I'm certain that I will order this dish every time I visit. It was really that good.

Poros Chips
I think my server was much more excited about the Poros chips ($12) than I was. She was essentially bursting with glee when I ordered them and then came back twice to see if I liked them as much as she did.  They consisted of crispy zucchini and eggplant plastered with tzatziki sauce and mint. They were quite light in texture and perfect companion for a nice bottle of white wine. I would recommend sharing though, eating the entire plate by myself was literally a tall order.

Pro tips: Poros is expensive. An entree is going to run you upwards of $30 and don't expect any free bread or discounted drinks. (Also, don't bother with the hummus, I didn't think it was that great.) Skip dinner, go for lunch and get the $18 fixed price meal. The salmon I ordered on a previous visit ranks among the best fish I've been served in this fine city. 

Poros Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Farm to Table - Friday Night Food Tasting


The first time I attended the Farm to Table Conference was in 2010 and I wasn't sure it was my cup of kombucha. That's because, in very poor fashion, I wasn't in attendance for the Food Tasting Night! I believe the tasting event is more accessible to the general public and also an amazing bargain at $30 a ticket. Here are all of my favorite dishes from the event.

Pictured above are the deviled eggs from Footprints Farm. They also offered an amazing apricot curry chicken - this was one of the only places I demanded second and third servings.



Market District offered this remarkable pork shoulder along with a sriracha bbq sauce. There was a bit too much cornbread accompanying the dish, but that wasn't a real problem. Also of note was their caramel brownie sundae! If you are looking for an extremely interesting read, I recommend this piece of history equating the development of the sundae with state blue laws.


Monterey Bay was absolutely a crowd favorite. They offered a tuna ceviche taco that was orgasmic. I do not believe that the taco is offered on their regular menu yet, but keep an eye out in the future.


Quiet Creek Herb Farm was offering both a vegan kimchi and a traditional kimchi in addition to some other small samplings. I learned a lot about kimchi on this fine day. The fish sauce is everything! The difference between the two varieties was spectacular, I would never opt for vegan kimchi over traditional, even if I was a vegan.The layers of complexity added to the traditional kimchi by the fish sauce were truly astounding.


The Franklin Inn was one of my favorite Mexican restaurants growing up. Their Colorado green chili is unlike anything you will find on most Mexican restaurant menus in the Pittsburgh area. However, the real show stopper is the cilantro jalapeno vinaigrette. The dressing is perfectly balanced and wonderfully flavorful. This was basically the one item you had to take home at the Farm to Table Conference!

Franklin Inn Mexican Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Logan family farms offered one of the more interesting dishes of the evening. A naturally dry aged beef meatball. I am certainly not accustomed to meatballs being made with dry aged beef, but I could get used to such a special treat. The Logan family themselves were also a real treat with their welcoming boisterous personalities. 



Emerald Valley Artisans had my absolute favorite offering of the evening. A giant table filled with cheese! Of particular note was the grilled brick ricotta with truffle oil. Warm grilled ricotta with crusty bread featuring the earthy truffle oil - this offering forced me to eat until I was nearly incapacitated. I do not believe I could make a stronger recommendation.

Overall the conference is a must visit for anyone interested in the sustainable food movement, or food in general! It is probably one of Pittsburgh's single best food events. 


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto


When you ride the glass elevator up to the dining area of Monterey Bay, you know you are in for a memorable evening. If you haven't been in a while, I recommend stopping by to checkout the new decor. They recently did a massive three million dollar overhaul and the space looks beautiful. It has a very elegant aesthetic that is not common in the Pittsburgh area. I doubt I need to mention the great view of the city from Monterey Bay, but it is astonishing!


Pictured above is the kobe beef tartar on crostini, the salmon ceviche roll with spicy mayo and the veggie roll for the losers. (Just kidding, it was pretty good - I'm just more of a fish man.)

I particularly enjoyed the salmon ceviche roll, but the beef tartar was my absolute favorite. Very flavorful and fresh, I think I ate about half of the platter by myself. In addition to the renovations, Monterey Bay has been making some additions to their menu as well.

It's nice to see that a restaurant that has been around for a while isn't afraid to try new things, just the other week they were offering a ceviche taco at the Pittsburgh Farm to Table Conference that was remarkably good.



The Ichiban skewers pictured above were one of my favorite dishes we tried at Monterey Bay. They made them with bite size pieces of marinated filet, tuna and swordfish. The dish had a great array of flavors and textures and I love anything that's slightly charred.

Monterey Bay also put together some great cocktails for us! My absolute favorite was the strawberry basil pepino with tequila, lime, strawberries and jalapeno. It was a total knockout. I can't thank the staff of Monterey Bay and Eileen French from Revive Marketing enough for such an awesome evening. I can't wait to go back. It's always nice to be pampered.

Monterey Bay Fish Grotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato