Friday, November 2, 2012

The French Disconnection

Hey, remember Groupons? Yeah, I always forget them, too.

Not long ago, it came to my attention that a Groupon we'd purchased nearly a year ago was about to expire. So I grabbed PID and two of our favorite F.O.R.Ts and we headed to Brasserie 33 in Shadyside to get our French on. 

I should start by telling you, it was a HOT night. Like, sauna hot. So when we opened the door expecting a blast of cold air and felt nothing but the heat of the kitchen, we got a bit worried.
The atmosphere was simple. Clean white table cloths and a lot of light pouring in from the wall of windows. A step up from the strip-mall roots from which it grew, but nothing overly special.

The place was empty, save a few folks we pegged for regulars. So we expected excellent service.  In reality, what we got was one of the WEIRDEST dining experiences any of us had ever had.

Its not often that I complain. I would truly rather offer a positive review than a negative one, but this was such an odd situation that I feel obligated to share our entire experience with you, my readers!

Our server was a disheveled gentleman boasting a thick french accent who (and I really shouldn't speculate, but...) didn't seem to have showered in days, shaved in weeks, or brushed his teeth in decades.  While I typically reserve judgement, sanitation is a big issue in the hospitality industry and I did not feel the least bit confident that he took it very seriously.  (I should comment that the other waitress was quite friendly and quite clean and the kitchen staff appeared to be so as well.)  Aside from his appearance and odor, our server was also far too intrusive. He barely left us alone for a single moment of our entire experience - joking inappropriately, leaning on our table, hovering awkwardly as we reviewed the menu - and crossed personal boundaries as he conversed with us (which is how we detected the odor).

They had no beer and no pop (though our waiter offered to "run out and grab us a can, if we wanted"), so we opted for red wine as a table. I was slightly disappointed in their wine list - given that they are a French brasserie - but we were pleased with our selection.

All of this said, the entire dinner was not a complete bust. Our food was an altogether different story.

We ordered the Boullabaisse, Jambe d'Agneau, Blanquette de Veau, and Roti de Canard au Cassis, respectively. 

Bouillabaisse (classic French dish with calamari, shrimp, mussels, clams, fish,  scallops, and roasted potatoes with a saffron fume) - $27

Jambe d'Agneau (lamb shank au jus served with roasted potatoes and vegetables) - $32

Blanquette de Veau (veal casserole with carrots, roasted potatoes fresh thyme, fresh parsley and mushrooms in a white wine veal sauce) - $26

Roti de Canard au Cassis (Roasted semi-boneless half duck with black curant sauce) - $32

To our surprise, each of us was quite pleased with our meal. Everything seemed fresh and well prepared.  The authenticity of the French cuisine really shined and the flavors came through. Originally, we decided against ordering appetizers so as not to prolong our already awkward encounter, but after eating our entrees we were certainly left wondering.

Restaurant Information:
Address: 5863 Ellsworth Ave, Shadyside
Phone:  412.363.3090
Reservations: Taken
Hours: Open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner

Overall Opinion:
If I were to rate this entire experience on food alone, I would rate it fairly high. My duck was cooked to perfection and the sauces in each of our meals was beyond luscious. But sadly, there were other aspects to this meal that left my friends and I quite stumped.  If I could be guaranteed that I would not have the same server, I would return to Brasserie 33 in a heartbeat. It's not one of Shadyside's most raved about establishments, but they do serve good food.  I give this place a conditional recommendation. If you love French cooking, then give it a shot!

Brasserie 33 on Urbanspoon

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  1. I have been to Brasserie 33 several times and enjoyed it each time and never had a bad experience with service (in fact, in my experience it has been some of the best service in town). The food is always excellent, and I have gotten a diet Coke there from the tap before, so I don't know what was up at your visit.

  2. This is really interesting because I had a similar bizarre experience with the same waiter in January 2012, and after speaking with a manager and the owner, I was told that they fired this waiter. Apparently that was a lie.


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