Somewhere along the line, we Yinzers must have done something really good, because this year, we were blessed with not only one Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, but two. You might remember our travels during the winter festival: the tasting menu at Toast!, the blogger dinner at Braddock’s, a pre-show dinner at Elements (which has sadly now closed), and a snowy lunch at Kaleidoscope Cafe.
For the summer celebration, we decided to test out four different spots, and we managed to pick four restaurants we’d never visited before at all. Our first stop was last night at the classy downtown staple, The Carlton.
But once Little Miss was tucked away safely for the evening, we headed downtown to the BNY Mellon building, which houses the Carlton. In all my years of working downtown, I don’t know how I never knew this restaurant existed! In addition to the full dining experience, they also have a bar and lounge area, with happy hour drink specials.
I knew I was going to like the Carlton after reading on their website that they (like the Grand Concourse) encourage game-day dining. So while this place is classy and the perfect spot for a romantic dinner or a business lunch, you can also come in your ‘Guins jersey before a game and be taken just as seriously, and that is a mark of great restaurant service in my book.
But I knew we were in for a real treat at Restaurant Week dinner when our server, Doug, showed up with the menus. There’s nothing quite like a server bringing you a new menu and being unable to keep his or her excitement at bay. Doug was knowledgable about the new menu, and couldn’t help but throw in little comments like, “Well, the creme brulee is always good, but that cappucino torte? Awesome. And then, we all sampled that peach shortcake, and that one was scary good. So, you can’t lose there.” We were excited already, and they hadn’t even brought out the first round!
While waiting for your first plates to arrive, you get a little bread plate with their house specialty butter (it’s a blend with red pepper and horseradish – yum!). I liked the variety of the bread: we got some asiago cheese slices, a walnut bread (that’s the one that looks sort of purpley – texturally, it was like a banana nut or zucchini bread), and thick Italian slices.
For Restaurant Week, you can order the three-course menu alone, or you can add on wine pairings for only $14 more (I’m sure you can guess what we chose). These were hearty pours, and totally worth it! Cheers to Restaurant Week and our first visit to the Carlton!
For my appetizer, I got the lobster pierogies. Yes, let me say that again: lobster pierogies. These were incredible! They were creamy and salty all at the same time, and the outside of the pierogies had that just-right crispy layer that you typically only see in a serving pan-fried by your favorite Ukrainian church lady. I was impressed! The buttery chardonnay they were paired with was just what I needed.
Michael got the lamb and chevre spring rolls. While I’m always a little squeamish about lamb, I did try one, and it was delicious. They little rolls had the texture of an authentic Chinese egg roll, but the balance of the goat cheese and the meat inside was great. Hearty, but not overpowering. Michael’s appetizer came with a glass of Cupcake Pinot Noir.
We were fortunate enough to have a table by the window, and we could enjoy the view of the majestic County Courthouse just outside. (Full disclosure: we also couldn’t help but enjoy overhearing the very loud, overly-dramatic business dinner going on a few tables away. These guys had a serious handle on every single corporate buzzword ever created. And we giggled. Quietly. But I’m not kidding, we heard ‘strike while the poker is hot, roll the dice on this one,’ and ‘dive into that market’ all in the same sentence.)
This is about the time this conversation happened:
Me: Omg, we’re totally going to Hell for giggling at these buzzwords.
Me: At least we’ll be there together, right?
Husband: Isn’t Hell supposed to be the worst? So wouldn’t we be kept separate?
Me: No way, the Devil would think we’re hilarious. He’d totally put us together. He’d want a laugh in hell.
Husband: You think the Devil likes a good joke?
Me: Honey, of course he likes a good joke. He goes around fiddle-fighting people –
Husband: He whats?
Me: Fiddle-fights. You know, ‘bet a fiddle of gold against your soul.’
Husband: ::fit of giggles::
Thankfully, before this conversation could go any further, our main course arrived. I had a hell of a time (haha!) deciding between the mahi-mahi and the chicken, but in the end, went with the chicken because it came with summer squash, my favorite non-corn summertime vegetable. This was delicious! The chicken had a slightly-crispy skin to it, but the meat was so tender you barely needed a knife to cut it. And while I’m truly not a risotto girl in general, this stuff was amazing. It had bits of pulled pork BBQ mixed in with the creamy rice. I could only do a few bites because it was so rich, but those bites were awesome!
Michael got the beef tenderloin. Again, the meat was done perfectly. And those potatoes? They were to die for, blended with just a hint of bleu cheese and expertly whipped. We definitely sampled a few bites from each other’s plates!
And then came dessert. I couldn’t resist the lure of the creme brulee. There is nothing better in the summer than fresh berries on dessert. I’ll tell you one thing: I would certainly fiddle-fight the Devil for another round of this creme brulee. This wine is a Chateau Loupiac Gaudiet, which is a French dessert wine that had a thickness very similar to ice wine (made from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grapes). It was just right, although I probably should have ordered a coffee as well at that point!
Michael got the cappucino torte, which came with a Port wine (that’s the chocolately dessert wine) pairing. This was like a coffee cheesecake, and the chocolately flavor of the Port went so well with the chocolately-ness of the torte.
I would seriously consider going back to the Carlton just for wine and dessert, this round blew me away so much!
This was SUCH a great way to kick of Restaurant Week. If you’re still undecided about where to go between now and Sunday, I really recommend keeping the Carlton in mind. You can make reservations online (my favorite thing!), and you could even pop in during lunch if you work downtown. The service was great, the food was excellent, and the atmosphere was gorgeous. We will be back without a doubt!