Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Takeout Tuesday -- Sushi Delivery?!

For years (and years, and years, and also years) I've been dying to find a sushi place that delivers. Sushi delivery is my Loch Ness Monster. My Big Foot. My Chupacabra. My Mt. Everest. My elbow lick. You get the point.

If you live in Squirrel Hill or Shadyside then well, the sushi Gods have smiled upon you.  Ya'll have Sakura Teppanyaki N Sushi on Forbes Ave (big fan) and Sushi Too on Walnut St (not a fan) which both deliver...but only to a small radius. So sure, for me it's great for game nights with f.o.r.ts who reside on that side of town, but not so optimal for us southern folk. So, alas, sushi delivery continues to elude me.

Until Sunday night.

On many occasions on our drive home from Papa PID's place we'd passed Asian Garden on rt. 88 and hadn't really thought much of it.  It didn't stand out from the (hundreds of thousands of) other strip mall Chinese joints I've seen in my hay day, so we drove on by.  But while jonesin' for sushi on Sunday night I spun my handy Urbanspoon Slot Machine (which you can ALWAYS find on my blog to the right if you should need it) and it told me that I should order sushi from them. So I gave them a call. It went a little something like this:

AG: "Hello, Asian Garden"

TOP: "Hi I'd like to place an order please."

AG: "OK you want pick-up or delivery?"

TOP: "I wha.....you DELIVER?!"

AG: "OK delivery. What's your address?"

I was jumping around the living room like a small child who was just told she's going to Disney World in the morning. PID and I decided to split a Spicy Crunch Tuna, Christmas roll (Tuna, Avocado and Tobiko) and Sweetheart roll (Spicy Crunch Tuna topped with Tuna and Avocado).  We happen to have a deep appreciation for tuna and avocado, OK?

I ordered a house salad with ginger dressing as well.

When it arrived, PID and I were still so excited that we decided to make a nice romantic home dinner out of the evening (yet another Loch Ness).

PID had the Spicy Crunch and 1/2 a Sweetheart roll...cuz he's my sweetheart.

I had the DELICIOUS Christmas roll and the other 1/2 of the Sweetheart.

And here is my salad soup. Literally. There was so much ginger dressing I  couldn't even taste my lettuce or feel it's crunch. It was like slop. And the dressing was awfully sweet.

SOMEBODY was hoping we would be messy eaters... no such luck for this TOP-Dawg.

Cliffs Notes:
Appetizers:      1 house salad with ginger dressing @ $2.95
Entrees:           1 Spicy Tuna Roll @ $5.25
                       1 Christmas Roll @ $6.25
                       1 Sweetheart Roll @ $9.75

Tax:                       7% (Allegheny County only) @ $1.70

Delivery Tip:    $8.00 (for braving 88)
Total for two:   $33.90

Overall Opinion:
Now, to be clear I am precisely 3.6 miles away from Asian Garden so it doesn't seem that far -- but approximate 3.4 of those 3.6 miles are on rt. 88 through Castle Shannon -- the most ridiculously awful stretch of road to ever exist. So I was nervous my sushi would be warm by the time it arrived. But no! It was still chilled and fresh and DELICIOUS! It definitely exceeded my expectations of a strip mall Chinese joint and then some. So a normal person may not tip nearly 40% but I thought this guy deserved it. While it wasn't the best sushi I've ever had, it was far from the worst. And the fact that it catered to my laziness certainly gained it major points in my book. Though I will never again order another house salad from them, I will stand by my support of Asia Garden and their sushi and delivery service through thick and thin!

Asian Garden - Chinese and Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chow Bella

I am extremely excited to report that we welcomed a new member to our little corner of the office last week!  But why do you care?  Because a new hire means something amazing...


Yes, that's right. That glorious hour in the midst of a hectic work week where we all take a moment to come out of desk-bound hibernation, squint our eyes in the sun (or in today's case, rain) and venture through urban forest of high-rises on the hunt for a decent meal to welcome our newest member.

Today's welcome lunch landed us at Bella Sera Urban Trattoria in -- you guessed it -- Market Square (joy of joys)!

Thanks, bellaserapittsburgh.com

 Bella Sera translates to lovely evening.  Seeing as this was a welcome lunch, we had to improvise. Ma non era triste.

I will start by saying that we called ahead to make reservations. Yes, even for lunch.  Though there were seven of us, I'd still suggest doing so or possibly choosing an odd lunch hour if you want to ensure seating. Tables are limited and many are two-tops...

thanks, bellaserapittsburgh.com
...so when we arrived, a line of patient hopefuls spilled out of the door. But since our table was ready and waiting for us, we slipped on by.

I'll first start by telling you I absolutely love the old, rustic European look when it comes to restaurants. Nothing in my mind, is more optimal for a fine dining experience than warm lighting and clean exposed brick.  If you're presently questioning my correlation between brick and meal appreciation I don't blame you -- but you'll just have to trust me on this one.

As a table, we took our server's advice and ordered a helping of the "famous" veal meat balls for $10.

The aroma of the marinara sauce was incredibly intoxicating and I couldn't wait to dig in and nearly drooled when I did. But I was good. I had just one.

I'm not sure if I've told you, but I've recently embarked on a quest toward healthier living. Once a marathon runner, now a couch crusader, I've decided it's time.  So, I joined a gym and began chalking my packed lunch full of fiber, fruits and veggies. So I felt it necessary to do my very best to thoroughly enjoy my beautiful lunch outing while staying true to my impressive four-day streak of wellness.  So with a skeptically reluctant yawn I ordered the Grilled Salmon Salad for $11.

Not so skeptical anymore.

Who knew goat cheese and salmon were such a perfect pair? If you're not a fan of fish but looking to take a step in the healthy direction, this works wonders.  Now let's be honest.  Is goat cheese ridiculously fatty and caloric?  Sorta.  Two tablespoons'll cost ya 80 calories and 9 grams of fat. But the pomegranate molasses makes up for it by being sweet and delicious while (shock of shocks) still being relatively good for you.  Zero fat and only 50 calories per table spoon, HELLO! It's a great way to turn a yawn in to a yum! The salmon was perfectly seared and ya'll know how I feel about beets. So essentially this salad can be summed up in two words: nom, nom.

I thought you might be interested in seeing a few of the delicious things my co-workers ordered, and they were so kind as to oblige me on shoving my camera lens in to their meals and snapping a few shots.  Thanks team!

Insalata Verde, $9

Pasta Greco, $12

Bella Chopped (add chicken), $13

Blackened Chicken Salad, $11

Grilled Chicken Sandwich, $10
The sandwich came with DELICIOUS homemade chips that I kept sneaking.  I am a serious sucker for a homemade potato chip.

But once we were through with our entrees, the real magic began.  Our server sold us on dessert...or maybe I should say she mentioned the desserts came fresh from Prantl's across the street and then we were sold.

We ordered three desserts for the table: the almond torte, the chocolate cream cheese and...let's be honest. I stopped paying attention at chocolate cream cheese.

Restaurant Information
Bella Sera Urban Trattoria
Address: 22 Market Square, downtown
Phone: (412) 281-6363
Reservations: Suggested, even on weekdays. Lunch gets quite busy.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday
           Private events on Saturdays and Sundays

Overall Opinion
The entire meal, including the dessert, was perfectly portioned for lunch.  The pastas weren't too heavy, the salads weren't too sparse and the cakes and tortes were small enough that I could indulge (just a smidgen) and still feel OK about it.

I don't have cliffs notes for this meal because I was the lucky recipient of a corporate lunch so I wasn't privy to the total or tip but my overall opinion (and what I gauged from my teammates) was that the meal was molto bella! A seemingly great place for lunch, happy hour OR dinner with a warm and welcoming atmosphere, pleasant service and delicious food -- Bella Sera is a must-try!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bistro 19

I love Washington Rd. in Mt. Lebanon.

I've come to that conclusion before during Saturday afternoon window shopping jaunts and former lunchtime trips to Mineo's Pizzeria but was happily reminded this past Friday evening as PID and I ventured to Bistro 19 on the corner of Washington and Central.

We waited just a bit too long to make reservations so our only available time slot was 8:30 p.m. but I've been dying to try this place for a while. So we headed down a bit early to grab a drink at the bar and hope for early seating.

Thanks, Bistro19.com

It was a bustling Friday evening during Halloween weekend and with Molly Brannigans and The Saloon just a stones-throw away, those late reservations came in handy as we got to catch an entertaining glimpse of countless vampires, fairies, Ninja Turtles and Super Mario characters walk by. We were also highly entertained with Kevin, the Bistro "regular" who seemed to have gotten a head start on the weekend.

The space was quaint, but the atmosphere was well thought out. It made me hungry just sitting there. For the smallish size of the restaurant I didn't feel crowded in the least which -- as you know -- is one of my biggest pet peeves. I really liked the feel here.

Thanks, Bistro19.com

No go on the early seating, but I was OK with that because I spent the time at the bar looking over the menu in an attempt to make a VERY difficult decision on what to order. Everything looked so good!  Both the hostess and server were quick, efficient and quite pleasant.  I made my decision. We started with the bread...

None of the bread options were particularly appealing so I was relying on the butter to nail it home.  It was a sweet butter with chives. To me, an extremely odd combination of flavors which left an odd aftertaste. But PID liked it quite a bit, so don't necessarily take my word for it.

Then, on to the appetizers...

Though it looked absolutely delicious, we were strongly against ordering the calamari because we wanted to shake things up a bit (and we always order calamari) so went for what was called "Crab Grilled Cheese."  It certainly sounded interesting!  But once our server read the specials we knew we couldn't pass up the Mushroom Bisque, either. So we ordered one of each.

We were torn here. The crab grilled cheese was served atop a balsamic glaze and baby greens and while I'm typically a balsamic junkie, I actually thought it really took away from the flavor of the crab.  However, I tried a bite without any glaze and it was rather bland. It was either too much or too little. PID and I were both pretty disappointed. (I have to say the Parmesan encrusted tomatoes were VERY good, though!)

But -- though it could have used a better presentation method -- the Mushroom Bisque blew us both away.  I actually sent my compliments to the chef (which I don't often do) and filled out a comment card requesting that it be put on the permanent menu. Typically bisque's are composed of pureed seafood of some sort, so the mushroom really intrigued me. It was perfectly creamy and had that hint of buttery aftertaste which I love. Technically this was PID's order, but I made sure to sneak as many spoonfuls as I could when he wasn't looking. Hey Bistro -- add this to your permanent menu PLEASE... but dress it up a bit, would ya? It deserves a prettier presentation!

Since it was a Friday, PID ordered another Captain and Coke as we waited for our entree...

At PID's suggestion, I ordered the first listed item on the entree menu, the horseradish encrusted Chilean Seabass served on a bed of Napa slaw. PID went for the Jamison Farm Lamb Shank with whipped potatoes and a truffle ragout. The lamb fell of the bone and was deliciously tender. PID said that his first few bites we absolutely delicious, but it became a bit redundant as he continued through his meal.  I only had one bite, so I have to give it two blazing thumbs up. But I'm wondering if a few greens would have helped the cause at all? (And the inedible sprig of rosemary just doesn't count.)

But now we get to the fun part. My completely delicious, pleasantly surprising Chilean Seabass. Seabass is tricky (for me, anyway).  If you don't cook it perfectly, I find it far too fishy which is why I rarely order it. But I was feeling adventurous so I gave it a shot. And I'm so happy I did! The fish sliced like butter with my fork and every bite melted in my mouth. The oriental horseradish crust fit the fish to a T and the crunch of the slaw gave it a great texture. 

I wanted to save some room for dessert so I boxed up what I didn't finish (knowing full well that I rarely EVER eat leftovers) but I have to tell you that I woke up thinking about it the next morning and wound up eating it -- cold -- for lunch.  Yes -- I liked the meal THAT much that I ate a left over, a FISH leftover, a COLD FISH leftover!! That certainly says a lot.

The dessert I saved room for wasn't half bad either.  Once again, PID and I had differing opinions (three in one night is quite odd for us...) but I loved the Wildberry Sorbet. I had seen a neighbor order it when we were first seated and new I wanted to be a copy cat. Sadly, however, I made a point to ask if the sorbets were made in-house and the server responded "I wish." What a bummer, because it was GOOD.  But served on a doily? C'mon Bistro....you're better than that.

Restaurant Information:
Address: 711 Washington Rd. Mt. Lebanon
Phone:  412.306.1919
Reservations: Taken, strongly suggested especially for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
           Friday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
           Sunday 11:00 – 2:30 (brunch) and 4:00 – 9:00 

Cliffs Notes:
Beverages:              1 Cab Sav @ $8
                                 2 Captain & Cokes @ $5.50
                                 1 Diet Coke @ $2.00
Appetizer:               Mushroom Bisque @ $5.00
                                Crab Grilled Cheese @ $10.00
Entree:                    Jamison Farm Lamb Shank @ $28.00
                                Chilean Seabass @ $29.00
Dessert:                  Wildberry Sorbet  @ $4.50
Tax:                        @ 7% (Allegheny County only) @ $6.83
Tip:                           $21.00
Total for two:                  $125.33
Overall Opinion:

It was a roller coaster evening.  There were a lot of ups and downs but I'd have to say the downs weren't as low as the ups were high.  Combined with the pleasant atmosphere, fast and friendly service and great (in my mind) location, I'd have to highly suggest Bistro 19 as a place to add to your list.  Let's hope it's not as long as mine!

Bistro 19 on Urbanspoon

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