It’s an exciting time to be a foodie in Pittsburgh. We’re gaining cachet and getting press, and for good reason: there are more restaurants opening than it’s even possible to keep up with. I believe it is more or less impossible to be an encyclopedia of all the good eats in Pittsburgh.
Luckily, we’ve only committed to trying five new, less-than-a-year-old places in 2016. We kicked off the year with a smashing dinner at Senti, and now we continue the hot streak with a wonderful meal at Poros in downtown Pittsburgh’s Market Square.
We’d spotted Poros for the first time during last year’s Light Up Night downtown; while being crushed by a throng of slow-walking probably-suburbanites, we ducked to the side and scurried in, seeking refuge (and a cocktail). We left then knowing that we would have to return for the full experience. A couple weeks ago, return we finally did in order to celebrate my birthday.
As for the menu…well, it’s big with many interesting options. Everything looked so good, in fact, that we decided to cede all control and go on what Poros calls the “Chef’s Odyssey.” It’s a chef-driven five-course dinner, where your whole table eats whatever the chef feels like making that day. To make a sweet deal even sweeter, you get the option to add on wine pairings chosen by the restaurant’s sommelier.
(If you’re unsure about whether we opted in for the wine pairings…welcome to reading our blog for the first time!)
Poros specializes in Mediterranean cuisine. Our first course was a scrumptious Ouzo-cured salmon with fennel and tzatziki sauce. Its pairing was a Gilgal White Riesling from the Golan Heights area of Israel; the crisp tartness of the riesling paired nicely with the Ouzo-fennel combo and the cool cucumber of the tzatziki.
Next up was a fantastic little surprise — grilled octopus with radicchio and capers! The octopus was cooked to just the right tenderness, avoiding any rubbery texture, and the briny capers enhanced its savoriness. The wine pairing was again spot-on — a Rosé of Cal Karasi, which is a Turkish varietal grown in the Aegean region. The light sweetness of the rosé tempered the radicchio’s boldness in a very pleasing way.
Third came a vegetarian course that we enjoyed quite a bit. This was a medley of squash, olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, peppers, Mediterranean spices, and eggplant. Fox is generally not a huge eggplant or olive fan, but this dish converted her, if only for a fleeting time, on both of them. Matched up with this tasty and rich dish was a sturdy, spicy Massaya Le Colombier, which is a Lebanese wine made from a blend of several of our favorite varietals: Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Tempranillo.
Our entree course was a real show-stopper. Poros is a fish-centric place, with many styles of preparation, and their work on this front did not disappoint. Course four was halibut with potatoes and a pea-mint purée with garlic mignonette, paired with Greece’s most-planted wine varietal, Agiorgitiko (if you don’t know how to pronounce it, don’t worry, I just learned how to spell it about 30 seconds ago). Regardless of how you say it,* Poros literally keeps it on tap, so you’ll have no trouble ordering a glass. The Agiorgitiko was dry and just tannic enough to stand up to the buttery umami qualities of the halibut.
Last on the agenda was our dessert round — a lovely little trio comprised of (right to left) baklava ice cream, flourless chocolate cake with candied orange, and housemade Greek yogurt with Greek honey and candied walnut. That yogurt — damn, it is out of this world with its tanginess. It wed beautifully with the honey and the walnut, and also with our final wine pairing: a Cyprian dessert wine called Commandaria, which has been produced in Cypress for nearly three thousand years. Long story short: they know. What they. Are doing.
In the end, we were thrilled and completely satisfied with our choice to do the Chef’s Odyssey. Poros took us all around the Mediterranean and left us full and happy — and feeling like we’d learned a lot about wine! Seriously, the sommelier, Alan**, is amazing. He does the pouring for the Chef’s Odyssey personally, and he’s always open to questions from amateur wine enthusiasts (such as Fox and myself).
If you’re looking to celebrate something special, or impress a date, or just have a fantastic meal with thoughtful wine pairings, give Poros a shot.
* C’mon, like we’d leave you hanging. Agiorgitiko is pronounced Ah-yor-YEE-te-ko — exactly like you probably guessed, amirite?
** Incidentally, in a Pittsburgh-is-the-biggest-small-town-in-America moment, we’d been feeling all night like we recognized Alan, and by the end of the meal we had it: we’d also given him a rave review back in 2014, when he was the sommelier at Altius up on Mount Washington!