Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bloomfield? Try Sausalido.

Editor’s Note: Last night, I got together with some local bloggers for the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Blogger Dinner at Sausalido (4621 Liberty Avenue, 15224). Fellow blogger and friend, AJF (everybody loves you... / @AlexanderFIV) found himself to my right (poor thing, I have a terrible habit of throwing the elbow while eating) and we decided to tag team our orders, and ultimately our restaurant review of Sausalido.

If you are unfamiliar with Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, it’s pretty simple and totally great. Local restaurants that participate often create a prix fixe menu with a special price (most often $20.13, get it?) and make that menu available for the duration of the week in addition to the regular offerings. In this instance, AJF and I decided to order the specific items that Sausalido planned for its Pittsburgh Restaurant Week deal, rather than going rogue. The prices listed are from the regular menu for your future reference. Here are our thoughts. Enjoy!

Co-Editor’s Note: My wife’s friend’s hairdresser’s brother owns Sausalido so my opinions will be slightly compromised.

Co-Editor’s Co-Note: If you think that a “food blogger dinner” is just a bunch of pretentious white people blathering about Pittsburgh food trucks like a real-life Californians skit from SNL, you’re wrong. We discussed Philadelphia and Austin food trucks as well.

Cilantro Pineapple Black Bean Salsa ($8, cumin dusted crostini)
HGB: This was a light way to start the meal, and helped absorb some of the Pittsburgh Winery wines that we were sampling. This was the second time in a week that I’ve had pineapple in a salsa, and it reaffirmed how much the pineapple’s sweetness compliments the spice and cilantro.

AJF: I remember a lot of corn. And having a hard time using the thickly-sliced companion crostini to shovel the salsa into my mouth. I actually ended up enjoying the complimentary oil and white bean mixture on the table much more.
Smoked Gouda ($8, sage wheat encrusted smoked Gouda, sauteed spinach, sun-dried tomato, pesto, and balsamic reduction) 
HGB: The sage wheat provided a nice outer texture for the creamy warmth of the Gouda within it. I would order this again, as I tend to gravitate toward cheese on a daily basis.

AJF: When I first read the above text, I thought that HGB was using “sage” as an adjective to describe the wheat. Like it was full of wisdom or something. I’m not sure if it was or not, but I do know that the Gouda was heavenly delicious and more than made up for the underwhelming salsa.*

“Sausalido side salad” (a sweet, tangy house dressing; greens, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, beets, and garbanzos)
All entrees are served with “locally baked fresh bread” (in quotes because it’s on the menu as such), “white beans with rosemary oil” (a delicious dip for the fresh bread), and a “Sausalido side salad."

 Daily Risotto ($18, arugula, bacon, and goat cheese)
HGB: I would not regularly order risotto for an entree, but since AJF and I were sharing, it worked. This particular version was tasty, prepared well, and had ample bacon (which is a growing priority among Americans). The bitterness of the arugula contradicted the smoothness of the goat cheese, and it worked.** My leftovers for lunch were pretty darn enjoyable!

AJF: The risotto had a pleasing bite to it that was nicely balanced by the creamy texture of the goat cheese. On a related note, “Risotto” is a great name for a dog.

Ravioli ($18, lemon zest ravioli, and shaved snap pea scallion reduction)
HGB: I didn’t love this dish, but it was refreshing. Snap peas are a favorite vegetable of mine, and I thought that they paired nicely with the lemon zest.

AJF: At this point the free wine was starting to kick-in and my palette was quickly losing its ability to differentiate between flavors. I remember that the raviolis were huge. I ended up eating everything in front of me so it must’ve been good.

Wild Berry & Mascarpone Cheesecake ($6, pecan nilla wafer crust and yogurt raisin garnish)
HGB: I don’t prefer berries, nor do I prefer cheesecake. But, I do like pecans, crust, and yogurt raisins. Thus, a few bites of this dessert was a nice change of taste to conclude our dining experience.

AJF: I’m also not a huge fan of berry cheesecake and was much more intrigued by the other dessert selection – green tea crème brulee. However, my illustrious eating partner confessed that she had actually had crème brulee already for breakfast that day*** so we decided to go in the other direction. Thankfully the cheesecake wasn’t as mind-numbingly decadent as the calorie-bombs churned out by the Cheesecake Factory, and the relatively light indulgence was a fitting end to our refreshing meal.

Concluding thoughts...

HGB: Sausalido has a pleasant ambiance, with a definitive warmth to it. It’s B.Y.O.B. with a $2 corkage fee, so come prepared if you like wine with your meal. The host was welcoming, the service was great, and the private room was intimate without feeling cramped. The food was presented cleanly and efficiently, and we were absolutely accommodated from start to finish. Parking is on the street unless you can snag a spot in the little lot off of Liberty on Taylor Street. (2.75 stars, 2.75/4)

AJF: I’ve been to Sausalido for non-food blogger dinners in the past and have always been impressed by the erudite service and fastidiously prepared food. Its Mediterranean-inspired decor and cozy dining space creates an atmosphere that is both suitable for group get-togethers and romantic date nights. My inner-Bruno Tonioli emphatically gives it an “8!"

Sausalido on Urbanspoon

*AJF: I really wanted to proclaim during dinner that “This is the most uninspired salsa I’ve seen since D. L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke marred the dance floor during Season 16 of DWTS” but I just couldn’t bring myself to speak the words out loud. Surprisingly, I’ve found that most people aren’t as amused by Dancing With The Stars-related humor as I am…
**HGB: I cannot re-read this sentence with a straight face even though I totally mean every word of it.
***AJF: Not getting crème brulee for dessert ‘cause you "already had it for breakfast" is definitely a first world problem.