Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week at Alma

A busy week proved villain extraordinaire when it came to participating as much as we would have liked in Pittsburgh Restaurant Week (nooooo!), but we did manage to make our way out to Alma in Regent Square before the week came to a close.

We met a few F.O.R.T.s for a night out on the town and were excited to try some new food and delicious cocktails. I really enjoyed the warm, intimate atmosphere at Alma. The walls and decor were very colorful and made it feel a little larger than it was by clearly separating the two dining rooms and emphasizing that pan-Latin feel.

 Mrs. F.O.R.T and I each opted for a different  Pittsburgh Restaurant Week prix-fixe choice while the men of the table went rogue, ordering straight off the menu.

But first we started with a few cocktails.  The men tried beers from breweries throughout Pennsylvania while the ladies caved in to the temptation of the sangria, which was refreshing and delicious.  But their cocktail menu was extensive and intriguing and I was dying to give at least one of them a try.  I had a tough time deciding, but I went out on a limb with the Jalapeno Gimlet.

Jalepeno Gimlet

For gin lovers, this baby is a dream.  Made with Hendrick's gin, cucumbers and, yes, jalapenos this little treat had multi-dimensional flavor which journeyed from bitter to heat to cool in one fell sip.

The table ordered three cups of black bean chilli while I had the fresh arugula salad.  Unfortunately Mr. and Mrs. F.O.R.T. are vegetarians and we were all uninformed that the black bean chilli actually contained beef.  But PID thoroughly enjoyed the depth of flavor in his chilli which was served with shredded cheddar and crumbled feta.  I also really liked my simple salad as the sweet vinaigrette cut the bitterness of the arugula.

Black bean chilli

Arugula salad

We each ordered an appetizer as well: the Peruvian Conchitas a la parmesana (Parmesan crusted scallops on the half-shell) and Yuca fritas, a dish inspired by Dominican cuisine.

The scallops were disappointingly small and in my mind, the Parmesan was far too overpowering.  I like to taste scallop when I eat scallops. Weird?

Peruvian Conchitas a la Parmesana 

The yuca fritas (yuca is a root vegetable more popular in Latin cultures similar to a potato) were actually very good -- perfectly crispy and very delicious with a freshness you don't really find in a run-of-the-mill potato.  The sauces -- one seemed to have a chipotle/mayo base and the other a cilantro/jalapeno pesto-like taste -- complemented the fritas wonderfully.

Yuca Fritas

For our fixed-price meals, Mrs. F.O.R.T. and I were each entitled to a starter (our chilli and salad), entree and dessert. I chose the Grilled Pork and she went with the fish special, the Baramundi.

Her fish was perfectly cooked and flaky with a beautifully crispy skin.


My pork was ever-so-slightly overcooked and dry, but I really enjoyed the jalapeno and cilantro pesto (yep, again, but I was OK with that). It was also served with a white sweet potato puree which, for those who enjoy mashed sweet potatoes, would have been wonderful.  Unfortunately I am not one of those people because I am a salt fanatic and I find the flavor to be too sweet to accompany savory dishes like pork and jalapeno.  But they were creamy and had a delightful texture, so others may enjoy it much more.

Grilled Pork

PID and Mr. F.O.R.T had Cuban Shrimp in a housemade lime sauce and the "Torrejitas de frijolitos," or legume patties, respectively.

PID's shrimp were cooked to perfection and the lime sauce gave them a well-deserved kick, but he longed for something more than "shrimp and rice."  He said other than the perfection of the shrimp, he felt as though he could have made this dish at home.

Cuban Shrimp 

As for Mr. F.O.R.T., he was a big fan of his vegetarian patty and adored bitterness of the collard greens.

Torrejitas de Frijolitos

Finally we were graced with dessert.  Mrs. F.O.R.T. had the renowned Tres Leches cake and I the raspberry sorbet.

Her cake was moist and dreamy with complex flavors (like a lovely taste of strawberry) that left her pretty satisfied.

Tres Leches cake

My sorbet was extremely refreshing, with a sweet burst of berry.

Berry sorbet

In a surprising turn of events, PID decided to try the Horchata Martini, a Cinnamon vanilla made with vanilla rum and cream for his dessert. He sipped daintily and seemed to really dig it!

Horchata Martini

Restaurant Information

Address: 7600 Forbes Ave, Regent Square
Phone: 412-727-6320
Reservations: They do not take them, so show up 30-45 minutes before you're hungry!
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday through Thursday
            5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cliffs Notes:

As you may have noticed, I typically don't list our bill price when we dine with friends as a courtesy.  Meals were moderately priced and their online menu lists each price.

Overall Opinion:

This was the third time we've attempted to eat at Alma, mostly due to the fact that they don't take reservations. We came prepared this visit, making sure to put our names in about 30 minutes before we actually wanted to eat. There is a small wine kitchen around the back which is a nice place to wait for an open table.  The wait wasn't along as it had been in the past this week which was perfect.  Our server was extremely friendly and punctual. There were high points and low points of our meal, but overall we enjoyed ourselves. Should we ever go back, PID and I will be sure to try something different to give it a better shot.

Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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