Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ladies Who Brunch: Bistro 19

Brunch is a hot topic lately as the Post-Gazette ("Pittsburgh restaurants roll out the welcome mat for brunch") and Pittsburgh Magazine's April issue gave this late morning/early afternoon meal some significant coverage. So I guess brunch is in. Truth be told, whenever I hear or see anything about brunch, I cannot help but replay the classic Seinfeld banter between Jerry and Jeannie (as played by Janeane Garofalo) regarding brunch (from The Invitations episode) in my mind. In case you are unfamiliar...
(photo from Daily Seinfeld)
Jerry: Well it’s been quite a night I could sure use a cup of coffee.
Jeannie: Hey! what’s the deal with decaf; how do they get the caffeine out of there and then where does it go?
Jerry: (weakly) I dunno.
A guy suddenly gets up to leave then falls on the ground.
Jeannie: That’s a shame...
Jerry: (to waitress) I’ll just have a cup of coffee.
Jeannie: (to waitress) Bowl of Corn flakes.
Jerry: More cereals? That’s your third bowl today, you had it for breakfast and lunch.
Jeannie: Hey! So what’s the deal with brunch, I mean that if it’s a combination of breakfast and lunch, how comes there’s no lupper or no linner?

It's true. Why isn't there a "lupper" or a "linner"? Why do we combine breakfast and lunch into a thing and not lunch and dinner? It this because lunch and dinner are too similar? Is this because there aren't lupper/linner drinks as fun as mimosas or bloody marys? Ah, the mysteries of the universe...

Nevertheless, when my girlfriends EAM and AMM wanted to share a meal with me for my recent birthday, a Sunday brunch was the first thing that came to mind (yes, women in their thirties do brunch). Of the local places that offer brunch, I selected Bistro 19 for three reasons: I like to try new things and have never had their brunch, I have had lovely experiences there in the past, and I am now a South Hills resident. Therefore, this review reflects the brunch experience and it also includes some additional input from my previous meals at this lovely Mt. Lebanon destination.

Bistro 19 has a great interior vibe with an attention-grabbing feature wall and complimentary accents throughout the intimate setting. A pressed tin ceiling paired with modern lighting fixtures and the natural light from Bistro 19's corner locale windows provide an unobtrusive juxtaposition of aesthetic elements. The long bar peeks over to the dining area with various table sizes from small and medium low-tops to large booths that create a nice atmosphere for any gathering. There's also a television for singles and/or couples who like to sit at the bar and watch something during their meal (much like JTP and myself).

Brunch at Bistro 19 is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, and reservations are recommended. Our reservation was for 11:30, and we arrived hungry, which proved to be in our favor. My friends are pretty indulgent of The Steel Trap, and agreed to get different items on the brunch menu in order to create a holistic brunch-y experience.
Since it was my birthday, I ordered a celebratory Mimosa ($10, champagne, orange juice, orange slice) that was underwhelming considering the size and the ten dollar price tag. This isn't to say that I am cheap, it's just to say that I have certain standards attached to what I voluntarily spend on indulgences. Next time I would get something with a little more pizzazz like the Bistro Bloody Mary ($10, house vodka, house secret mix).
I prefer lunch items when I go to brunch, so I opted for the Chicken Salad Croissant ($9.5, sun dried tomato, bacon, currants, pecans, tortellini salad). This proved to be an excellent choice. The largely chunked chicken was tender, and the sun dried tomato added flavor that masked any amount of mayonnaise that was used (I HATE tasting mayo); the bacon, currants and pecans added excellent texture to this conglomeration. When paired with a fresh croissant, this sandwich was quite pleasing. The side of cheese tortellini was a nicely sized portion of pasta salad with a light Italian flavor.  
AMM had been fantasizing about pancakes since her last meal at Pamela's, and once she looked at the Bistro 19 brunch menu, there was so pulling her away from the Bananas Foster Pancakes ($8, fresh bananas, caramelized whiskey sauce). As a result of eating these, she is now daydreaming about them! She did have to ask for more bananas as the initial portion was light, but the waiter was happy to oblige. Fortunately she was unable to finish the large stack, allowing for EAM and myself to sample this delectable dish. The pancakes were just thick enough with a gently crisp exterior. This allowed for the dreamy caramelized whiskey sauce to enhance the pancakes rather than over-saturate them. In Pittsburgh terms-- think Eat'n Park's grilled stickies revamped as pancakes with a subtle banana flavor. Amazing, right? That's what I thought.
EAM was thinking along the lines of lunch like me and ordered the Bistro Burger ($10, cheddar, bacon, roasted garlic ketchup, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, tortellini salad). She enjoyed this signature burger with its thick cheddar and toppings, although she did think it needed more of the roasted garlic ketchup ketchup than what was provided. Also, she thought that the tortellini salad was a nice side dish for a brunch sandwich.

As for dinner at Bistro 19, I recommend the following items as my top three favorites: Chilean Sea Bass ($31, horseradish crust, rice wine marinade, oriental vinaigrette, macadamia basmati, Napa slaw), Maple Leaf Farm’s Duck Breast ($22, fig red wine reduction, whipped butternut squash, green beans), and Almond Chicken ($18, almond encrusted, brie cream sauce, risotto, spinach). Trust me, it's all perfectly orchestrated and totally divine. For dessert, I recommend the Bananas Foster Napoleon ($6.5, flaky pastry dough layered with vanilla cream, bananas and caramel sauce) or the Butterscotch Rice Pudding ($6, warmed and served with cinnamon pecan biscotti) with a cup of hot tea. Then I would recommend going home, putting on sweatpants and replaying the meal over and over again as you drift off to sleep from your delicious food coma.

Brunch (3.25 stars, 3.25/4)
Dinner (3.5 stars, 3.5/4)

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