Ok, ok, so I love Hibachi. But, I swear, this time it wasn't my idea! Two gal pals and I headed over to South Side's Nakama to celebrate/mourn the impending move of LS. Tear. But what better way to say see-you-later, than with a glass of wine and an unbeatable meal? I challenge you to one-up that combination!
While most Hibachi places tend to be cheesily decorated, Nakama's upscale ambiance catches you from the moment you walk in the door. The normally over-elaborate decorations have been foregone for deep red and brown hues and low lighting, and the normally too-loud atmosphere has been replaced by hushed, but lively conversations. Loved it.
Now for the food... mm, mm, mm. For those of you who aren't Hibachi fans, fear not, there is plenty for you to enjoy! Nakama is known for its elaborate sushi, and this section of the menu has been recommended to me by several fellow Pittsburghers.
But we were there for the Hibachi, and, I must say as an amateur Hibachi expert, it was incredible. Absolutely, 100% incredible. If my stomach wouldn't have exploded, I would have eaten every single bite. Each item was cooked to perfection, with our chef being not only skilled, but personable as well.
So much food, where do I even begin?
Warning: the prices are high. But for the quality of food I received, I had no qualms when the bill arrived. Also, they tend to have great specials, so take advantage of those! The atmosphere and service are perfect for a nice night out, or a special group dinner. I highly recommend this Japanese Steakhouse treasure.
Need to go back. Have to go back. And I will go back.
Round Corner Cantina AND Piccolo Forno
It's a rare and amazing night when I get to experience not one, but two new and fabulous places - and Saturday night was one of these fantastic occurrences! After putting in our names for the Italian eatery Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville, we headed across the street to Round Corner Cantina for a beverage while we waited (1 1/2 - 2 hours... yikes).
My first impression of Cantina? "Wow, it's dark in here." Walking in you feel like you've just discovered an upscale hole-in-the-wall. The lights are low, the music is on, and the bar is stocked with impressively fresh ingredients. Walking back through the joint, however, you discover off-shoots of dining rooms and a festively-decorated patio that give Cantina a vibe all its own. If you're looking for a great, reasonably-priced margarita - you've found it. For $6, you can get La Cantina - your basic margarita served in a mason jar for an extra touch of personality. Mmmm! If you're hungry, they have a variety of small plates to choose from, but I was there purely for the enjoyment of a libation, so I will have to get back to you on the food.
Love the mason jars!
Finally we got the call from Piccolo, and over we went. Walking in, I just felt.. warm. The restaurant is small, but well lit, and the aroma from the pizza oven located out in the main dining room is enough to make you drool.
Given that we had waited a long while for this highly sought-after table (no reservations, sorry), we were determined to make the night, and our two bottles of BYOB red wine last. I must note that there IS a cork fee, but at a meager $5 per bottle, feel free to bring plenty!
Where to start? Insalate, of course. While each option looked equally delicious, we decided to sample the Insalata di Rucola and Insalata di Mare. Between the arugula, tomatoes and toasted walnuts of the Rucola, and the shrimp and calamari of di Mare, we certainly got the best of the best for this course!
On to the pasta! While the pizzas certainly smelled, and looked delicious, we were all in the mood for a little (or a lot of) pasta. After looking at the menu for 20+ minutes, I finally landed on the Tortelli stuffed with pork and beef, and topped with a gracious amount of bolognese sauce. Though I was beyond satisfied with my choice, one of the best parts of a ladies' night is sharing - so I was able to sample the lasagna, tender boar and various pastas selected by my fellow diners! It was all incredible, and I'm salivating just thinking about it.
Can I go on? I think I can!
From beginning to end, a wonderful experience. The waitstaff was knowledgable and passionate about the food, and I can't fathom finding something on the menu that I wouldn't love. Even better? The moderate pricing only enhances the delightful experience, and is sure to please wallets of all sizes.
Nicky's Thai Kitchen
I. Love. Asian. Food. I don't think I have come across a restaurant featuring Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese food - to name a few - that I haven't enjoyed. Yes, some are better than others, and a select few even become instant favorites which brings me to my post today - Nicky's Thai Kitchen.
Tucked away on Western Ave in the North Shore, this little restaurant packs a big punch in terms of atmosphere and wonderful food. The indoor dining room is small, but not cramped, and is tastefully decorated with ornaments and traditional garb here and there. The real treasure, however, is in the back patio. Stepping outside you are suddenly in a world of fountains, colorful umbrellas and endless flora and fauna. It's peaceful, and, on a nice night, captures everything I love about the North Shore into one place - unique, trendy and full of life and character.
Not-so-sadly, I cannot brag about their delicious drink menu... because they don't have one! That's right folks, this hidden gem is BYOB, and, on week nights, they don't even charge you a cork fee! Does it get any better? So on to the food. First and foremost, come hungry. Why? Well, not only are the entrees enormous, but in order to get the best of what Nicky's has to offer, you have to have more than just one course. My recommendations for appetizers are as follows: Crab Rangoon (don't even like it, but it's delicious here), Steamed Dumplings, Wonton Soup and the House Salad. All standard items found at most Thai restaurants, but all uniquely delicious here.
And now for the entrees. To put it simply, there is something for everyone. For the less adventurous, you can combine the meat of your choice with vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and snow peas to create a more basic meal. For the slightly more adventurous, venture into the Noodles section and check out the Pad Thai - it's my personal favorite. And then, of course, there is a wide variety of Curries so satiate a variety of appetites. Make sure to pick your spice level carefully!
Nicky's has quickly become my local favorite, and, with a location opening downtown, the word is sure to spread quickly!
Ok, so I decided to give my waistline a break and take a brief hiatus from eating out, even if it forced my Eats and Treats Page to suffer in silence for a little while. This weekend, however, was filled with fantastic eats, kicked off with a dinner at Steel Cactus in Shadyside on Saturday night.
Photo courtesy of Steel Cactus
Walking in to Steel Cactus, you feel as though you are walking into a bar - the music is bumping, the lights are dimmed, and the crowd by the bar is chatty. Located on Walnut amidst the deadly shopping and bar scene, the first floor of the restaurant features full length windows that create an open-air feel that is to die for on a nice night (and is a bit remniscent of a New Orleans joint). Don't get too distracted though -you're there to eat. And eat you shall. But first, sample a tasty item from the drink menu! While it isn't the longest drink list you'll find in town, the cocktails and margaritas are creative and unique, and they don't skimp on the liquor!
Hungry? Good luck trying to pick something off of the lengthy menu. If you're like me (and I think you are when it comes to this), you know that no Mexican-themed meal is complete without a healthy dose of chips and salsa. Sadly, they charge you, but the flavored chips and wide variety of salsas are worth every penny (and are only $3.. you'll be ok). While featuring the staple items (nachos, quesadillas, etc.), things like the shrimp tacos and naked burrito provide a little variety from the run-of-the-mill Mexican restaurant, and are seriously delicious.
Overall, simply fabulous. If you're looking for a quick, cheap bite, then this is not the place for you. The average bill (with an adult beverage) rings in around $20/person, and only goes up from there should you really indulge. But the food and the ambiance make up for the damage done to your wallet, so head on over! Oh, and don't forget to check out the rooftop section if you get a particularly nice night.
I've developed a not-so-secret obsession with Lawrenceville these days. Be it the blocks-upon-blocks of restaurants, or hipster chic atmostphere, I'm bordering on love with this nook of Pittsburgh. Furthering my obsession on Saturday night, I stumbled upon another L'ville treasure - New Amsterdam.
New Amsterdam is everything I love about a Saturday night wrapped into one - affordable drinks, good service, open-air seating, a football game on TV, and an awesome crowd. Planning on strolling right on by to head to another local eatery, the gang and I were totally drawn in by the atmosphere and plopped on down at a table. Who needs a boring old glass-door entrance when you can let people walk in through the open garage door/window?
To be honest, from the outside this place looks far too cool for the J. Crew likes of me - but the outside is little reflection of what lies within. The place is, for the most part, low key. The Saturday Night College Football game was on and blaring, with a few tables yelling away at the screen. Once the music came on, it was a good blend of all-things-current, and offered a little something for everyone. The space is small, so it feels more like a hangout then a hotspot, but deserves both titles equally.
Now for the important stuff - the Eats and Treats (drinks). The menu is true to New Amsterdam's ambiance - part trendy, part bar-down-the-street. Take the apps for example - Chicken Tenders and Mozzerella Sticks alongside Cauliflower Nugs and Blackened Mahi Bites. What?? But it works, and provides everyone with more than enough options to fill up on. I, personally, sampled the Mac & Cheese which was rich, creamy and delicious! The beer menu is nothing to shake a stick at either, with a selection featuring a combination of domestics, crafts and everything in between. Not a beer drinker? Right there with you - all liquor-based drinks and wine are reasonable, if not affordable given the location.
Overall rating: Check it out! The Event list looks ecclectic and awesome, so keep that on your radar as well!
I like a good Happy Hour. No, I love a great Happy Hour! And I found just that on Friday night at the Asian Latin Fusion treasure Tamari in Lawrenceville. Driving along Butler, you just might miss it as the entrance is tucked behind an iron-gated courtyard that features quiet outdoor dining. If you're there for the Happy Hour (M-F 5-7pm), head inside and try to grab a seat at the bar on either the first, or second floor. Or, if you're as lucky as we were to venture over on a gorgeous night, ask to be seated on their rooftop deck for a surprisingly wonderful view of the city.
As every restaurant should, Tamari takes Happy Hour seriously. Interested in a beer, glass of wine, or something off of their list of specialty cocktails? Indulge, and put your credit card at ease knowing that the vast majority of their long drink menu is half-priced. LS and I both sampled the Magarita (traditional) and Sangria, totalling under $10 per person.
Hungry? You better be! My recommendation? Sample, and be prepared to think (and eat) outside the box at this Tapas-style hotspot. Completely overwhelmed by the length and variety of the menu, my fellow diner and I decided to each throw out a few things that we thought sounded good - not wanting to limit ourselves. We ended up with the following:
- Guacamole with Plantain Chips
- Rock Shrimp Tacos
- Pork Cheek Quesadilla
- Chicken and Scallion, Beef Tenderloin, and Quail Egg with Bacon skewers from the Robata Grill
My favorite was absolutely the Pork Cheek Quesadilla (watch out for the peppers), but I was impressed with everything that we sampled, and found that this truly was Asian Latin Fusion at its finest. The best part? Not only were the drinks half-priced, but so was the food, and we walked away completely satisfied for under $40 total!
Carson Street Deli
There is something about a good deli that I just can't get enough of, and Carson Street Deli is certainly at the top of my list of Pittsburgh go-tos. Located on Carson Street between 15th and 16th, CSD not only offers a wide variety of upscale sandwich and traditional deli options, but a wider variety of craft beers than I ever imagined finding in a deli.
The menu combines your traditional meat-and-cheese sandwiches with some custom creations unique to Carson Street Deli. While I stuck with the basic roast beef and cheddar on a baguette (which was fresh, well-assembled and all-around delicious), my dining companion got the Buffalo Chicken Special which looked wonderfully messy and tasty.
And then there was the beer. I don't think I have ever seen so many different kinds of craft beer in one place, let alone a deli, since I have been in Pittsburgh. If you're looking for a water or soft drink like I was - just keep walking past the coolers upon coolers of beer and I promise that you will get there eventually. Don't know which one to choose, or where to even begin? Check out the Wednesday Beer Sampling Events for some craft beer education, and a great time.
Just a sampling of their overwhelming, but fabulous selection.
Needless to say, this place was perfect for a casual Sunday in the South Side, and next time I will definitely be checking out their patio seating!
Warning: this post is not for the extremely health-concious.
I consider myself one who watches what I eat, and I make a point to exercise 5-6 days a week. That's why when my boyfriend suggested heading to DragonFire, the new Japanese Steakhouse in Mt. Lebanon, I did not shy away. As much as I'm a believer in being healthy, I'm a firm believer in tossing the calorie counter out the window every once in awhile and enjoying a great meal - and DragonFire did not disappoint.
Located in the Galleria Mall, I was not expecting anything spectacular, but was honestly impressed by the upscale ambiance and lengthy menu that we discovered tucked away on the second floor of the shopping center. The dark red tones of the walls and furniture are complimented well with exposed stone grills and wall accents, and the low lighting makes the space warm and inviting.
Walk-up-and-sit-down Sushi Bar
Hibachi Grill section.. Love the brick!
As for the menu... well, where do I begin? For those who want a lighter fare, there is an expansive sushi bar where chefs handroll a variety of common and custom creations, and a separate dining room where diners can order off of their Sushi or Robata (Japanese Charcoal Grill) menu. And then there are the Hibachi grills. Always impressed by the show they put on, and the amount of food they can turn out, I was even more impressed by the resume of our chef and the quality of the food he served. With over seven years as a chef under his belt, as well as operating several local steakhouses, he was able to produce some of the best Hibachi - and Japanese food - that I have ever tasted.
After I was done.. too full to eat 75% of what was in front of me, but it was delicious just the same
Pricey? A bit, but nothing that will knock your socks off. For those who are budget concious, stick with the chicken, but for those who are out on the town, I dare you to try the Filet and Lobster on the Land and Sea section of the menu that runs at a cool $34 a plate.
As far as Japanese Steakhouses go, this might be the best one I have ever sampled. While not an every-day type of excursion, I highly recommend for when you're in the mood to splurge a little!
Industry Public House
Last night after a whopping 1-0 victory over the feared Light Blue Team in Kickball, the team and I decided to sample one of up-and-coming Lawrenceville's new eateries. Where to go when you're looking for a hearty meal, a cold beverage and a plethora of TVs to catch a football game? Answer: Industry Public House.
Opened on April 1, 2012, the Industry Public House truly lives up to it's description of "combining American comfort cuisine, artisanal cocktails and craft beer in a vintage-industrial inspired space." Walking into the space you just feel.. cooler. The exposed brick contrasted with the darkly painted walls gives it the feel of being - as one of my teammates accurately pointed out - an East Side bar in NYC. Comfort cuisine? They hit the nail on the head there too as the menu includes everything from Buffalo Chicken Mac n Cheese to the Farmed Out Burgher that features a fried egg, bacon and BBQ sauce slapped on a burger patty.
Touches like the menu clipped on a hardwood clipboard accentuates the upscale, yet industrial feel of IPH.
The delicious Farmed Out Burgher that two of my teammates devoured. Tired of traditional fries? Check out their Truffled, Pot Roast (complete with gravy) or Loaded Fries.
Overall - I highly recommend it. The atmosphere and the crowd of 20-somethings are cool and trendy, but not too cool to yell at the screen when the Steelers score a touchdown. The pricing is reasonable, and the combination of traditional and unique menu options makes this a go-to for a group with a wide range of appetites.
And don't get me started on the beer selection which is it's own clipboard of endless options sure to meet anyone's needs (plenty of Whiskey and Cocktails too).