Month: July 2012

Salt of the Earth – July 6, 2012

Salt of the Earth on Urbanspoon

Let’s get right to the getting in this issue. Until recently I really hadn’t heard much about Salt of the Earth, but what I have been hearing has been great. So a friend of mine and I decided to take a trip and see what Salt of the Earth is all about. When you walk in it’s kind of cool that the hostess stand has a curtain and they invite you in, something I have never experienced before. Walking in you see a huge chalk board which has the menu on it, modern community seating, seating at the bar or even in front of the kitchen. We decided to sit in front of the kitchen and I was glad we did.

It was kind of different to have to read the menu off of a chalk board especially since a lot of the stuff I was unaware of. Our waitress, Cathy, was awesome and was happy to walk us through anything we had questions about. We asked her some questions about the drink menu and what some of the items in the drinks were, on the stuff she didn’t know she informed us that the bartenders were magicians and everything came out great. I got the recommended gin drink to start and it packed a punch with great flavor, I may not know what was in it but it was tasty.

The appetizer that stood out to us the most was the sweetbreads. I had never had sweetbreads before and really wanted to try them. The sweetbreads come with bacon, succotash, tomato, grits. The grits were different because they were cubed and fried but plated with the sweetbreads so you could get everything in one bite. Again, I have never had sweetbreads before, but after trying salt of the earths I would definitely have them again.

One of the nice things about sitting in front of the kitchen was that we could see what dishes were being made and what they looked like. I could tell scallops were popular and so was the ribeye. So it was no surprise when we asked what Cathy recommended she went with the scallops and ribeye. I went with the ribeye which comes with mushroom, squash and sauce charcuterie. It was strange that I was not asked how I wanted my ribeye cooked, but I figured they were just going to cook it the way it should be. I can say that my steak experience just keeps getting better and better in Pittsburgh. A few weeks ago I had a ribeye at The Porch and loved it, I think I can say that Salt of the Earth even topped that. The basic salt and pepper seasoning along with the charcuterie sauce mixed with the mushrooms and squash was unbelievable. The ribeye came out around medium and was perfectly OK with me because the flavors of this dish hit every salivary gland I have. The ribeye was also a pretty impressive portion that I wasn’t expecting, I could barely finish it.

I really like zucchini bread and when I saw it on the menu I really wanted to try it. I barely had room but figured what the hell. Where I was seated was actually right in front of the dessert station of the kitchen, so during my meal I had already watched the zucchini bread being plated and really liked what I had been seeing. The kitchen toasts the zucchini bread on the stove for a few minutes and then it gets plated with a brown butter powder, currant sauce, sunflower seed brittle and I believe I was told a corn ice cream. I don’t like brittle so that didn’t interest me and the brown butter powder didn’t really do anything for me either. The ice cream was good and mixed well with the currant sauce and zucchini bread. I felt the zucchini bread had too many overpowering spices and I got the feeling I was eating a pumpkin bread more than zucchini bread.

Outside of the dessert I had I really enjoyed my trip to Salt of the Earth and will be back. For sitting in front of the kitchen my entire meal, the kitchen was very quiet. I give all the kitchen workers credit for being so organized. I would actually like to try Kevin Sousa’s other restaurants like Union Pig & Chicken and Station Street Hot Dogs first. If you haven’t heard Kevin Sousa is planning on opening a new restaurant in Braddock in the future, I’m looking forward to seeing what concept he brings next.


Bangkok Balcony – June 30, 2012

Bangkok Balcony on Urbanspoon

I am still fairly new to Thai food, I just had it for the first time over a year ago but I have been impressed quickly. I recently was in Squirrel Hill with a friend of mine and we were walking around trying to figure out what to get for lunch. One place has the audacity to say they have Chinese, Thai and a few other style of foods, if you can’t make up your mind I won’t try your food. Walking the streets we finally decided to try Bangkok Balcony since neither of us had ever been there. Bangkok Balcony is on Forbes but is located upstairs in their building, so yes there are some stairs to climb. Walking in for the first time I was very impressed with the decor, it was bright and colorful and very open. We were seated by the window of the restaurant which allows you to look down onto Forbes, which was a pretty awesome seat. All the tables along the window were only for 2 people, so if you go with a group you won’t get as great of a view but still worthy of going.

Unfortunately looking back neither of us asked for our waitresses name, and she was an amazing waitress. The thing that caught our attention first about Bangkok Balcony was the sign on the street that had a few special drinks written on it “Pineapple Margarita and Mango Mojito”. Our waitress told me she made mine and it was awesome and really strong (just the way I like it!).

We asked for her opinion on what she recommended since we have never been there, which she was really surprised it was our first time eating there. She recommended the crab rangoon and said it was her favorite appetizer. So we ordered the along with Mussels and Steamed Dumpling. The crab rangoon was excellent, you could taste the crab and there was also a great flavor combined with the deep fried wonton wrapper and cream cheese inside. I would get this over and over again. The steam dumplings were good, but no different than any other dumpling I have ever had. I think the stand out appetizer were the mussels. I have gone to seafood restaurants who have their star dish as mussels and haven’t been impressed with them as much as I was at Bangkok Balcony. Just like in the main entrees you get to pick your level of spice with the mussels, they were just an incredible appetizer that I will be ordering over and over again.

Onto the main event, the day we went was very hot and our waitress recommended going with a noodle dish since it was a hot day. The 2 dishes she recommended were Pad Thai (which is a classic) or the Bean Thread Noodles. I decided to go classic and I am glad I did, because the Pad Thai at Bangkok Balcony is probably the best I have had yet. Each time I got to a new Thai restaurant I enjoy the food more and more. If you are like me and never went to Bangkok Balcony before, it is worth the trip and you should go ASAP!

Hello Bistro – June 27, 2012

Hello Bistro on Urbanspoon

This past Thursday was the official Grand Opening of Hello Bistro in Oakland. Hello Bistro is as I’ve mentioned before a part of the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, you know the wonderful people who have brought us Six Penn Kitchen & The Porch at Schenley. Last Wednesday night I was privileged to be invited to a VIP dinner before the official opening. Everything that I loved about The Porch’s look a few weeks before I can say the same about Hello Bistro. Even before you walk in the outside decor of wood and chrome style along with garage style door windows is great and very modern (pictured above).

I have visited Hello Bistro a few times since they have opened and when you walk in a greeter will give you a menu and go over the concept with you. After you look over the menu you will place your order at the register. If you order from the salad bar they will walk you through it as you tell them what you want on it or if it is a salad from the menu they will go ahead and make it and then meet you at the end of the line with it. If you order a burger or anything else from the menu you will get a number at the register, you will place this on your table when you go to sit down and a server will bring your food to you VERY QUICKLY!

My first trip I tried a few things. I started with an Apple Almond Crunch Salad that is a salad from the menu. It has romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, granny smith apples, bleu cheese crumbles, almonds, and apple cider vinaigrette dressing. The Apple Cider dressing is AWESOME! As much as I love Eat N Park’s ranch, this could be my new go to when visiting Hello Bistro. The salad is massive, I believe they said 40 ounces! It was great because once they add all the items in the salad bowl you go to the chopping station and get it all chopped so the ingredients are mixed together. This was a great idea, I always like to get a little bit of everything in a bite of salad and it was perfection.

After you pass the chopping station you will notice a little bar. This is where they will be serving coffee, milkshakes, ice cream for floats, along with beer and wine. There is some seating around the bar along with a TV to watch.

Across from the chopping station is the refreshment area where you will notice a Boylan Soda Fountain. I have only had Boylan in a glass bottle, Hello Bistro has the only Boylan Soda Fountain that I have ever seen. My favorite is the Birch Beer (more flavorful than Root Beer).

Next to the soda fountain is where you will get your napkins, utensils, ketchup and even Eat N Park Ranch! Most restaurants charge you for a side of ranch, I really like the option to get ranch as a side for no extra charge.

As you continue to look down in the restaurant there is some high top seating and in front of it is a huge chalkboard. Make sure you sign something!

After I ate my salad I had a few other items to dig into! The first thing I tried was the Over-Easy Cheeseburger (much like a breakfast burger on other menu’s) which is a burger topped with cheddar cheese, bacon and an over-easy egg. I love the over-easy egg because I like to cut into the sandwich and let the yolk break and ooze into the sandwich so you get that in the first couple bites. I have also now heard of people who break the yolk and let it drip off the burger and then just dip the burger into it like a dippy egg. However you eat it, it all turns out to be delicious. The bun it was on was so fresh and soft, yet the inside had a little crunch because of it toasted on the grill (nice touch!). I am a burger and fries kind of guy, so I knew I had to try the fresh cut fries. I am a sucker for fresh cut fries, I think fresh cut fries and homemade chips are 2 of my favorite things ever! The fries come in a brown bag and are seasoned with salt and pepper. Add a side of Eat N Park Ranch and BOOM I’m good to go!

Who doesn’t like grilled cheese?! I love all the different takes on it and the most unique take Hello Bistro offers is the Italiano Grilled Cheese. Italian Bread, Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni and Marinara Sauce. WOW, while I am typing that my mouth is really beginning to salivate! That’s how you know something is really good! The fresh mozzarella really brings this sandwich together and makes it unique, because most places will give you sliced instead of fresh which I now know loses a lot. The fresh mozzarella really paired well with the marinara (like it should), and I noticed the pepperoni on the sandwich because it gave it flavor but it wasn’t the main attraction, the sandwich really made the fresh mozzarella shine.

At the end of the day the only thing that I could have (and want) was a Smiley Cookie (Yes they have them!). Hello Bistro sells Mini Smiley Cookies along with Chocolate Chip Cookies. It was the perfect end to a great and filling meal. Besides the food the service was excellent! The staff was very friendly and were always coming by the tables to ask how the food was or if they could remove anything from the table. I can see myself visiting Hello Bistro once a week if not more! If you haven’t made your way to Hello Bistro yet, what are you waiting for?! HURRY HURRY HURRY!