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As promised, a review of Eleven in Pittsburgh

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As promised, a review of Eleven in Pittsburgh

ageusiatic | Sep 11, 2004 04:47 PM

Hi everybody – after a bit of research on this board and a couple of recommendations, we decided to go to Eleven while spending the weekend in Pittsburgh. As promised, here’s the review. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions – I’ve always found this to be a great place for advice.

Eleven Review

We went to Eleven over the weekend – we had never been to Pittsburgh before and we wanted to go the one of the nicer places. Eleven had come up in a number of discussions on this board and the reviews had been positive so we booked a table for two. The restaurant is just off the strip in what appears to be a very nice converted warehouse space. We were led to our table on the second floor – it was an open booth that overlooked the bar. We ordered two glasses of proseco (always a good way to start a meal) and looked over the menu. The menu is quite long and while we were contemplating it, the first snack came – it was a small amount of diced eggplant with tofu and curry. It was odd. It was good - just a little odd. Also, to our surprise it turns out that proseco and curry go together quite nicely – definitely food for thought when we go to a BYOB Indian place – we have a number of them here in New York.

We ordered the tomato salad and the shrimp as appetizers. The tomato salad was quite good – slices of fresh tomato and pea shoots with olive oil and a fantastic hard cheese. The shrimp were, well, again, odd. Clearly the kitchen has thought a lot about this dish – it is very nicely presented and the waiter actually told us the philosophy of the dish when it arrived (apparently it involves “deconstruction”). The issue was that the philosophy of the dish was better then the execution. The shrimp were in shot glasses with lime, vodka and a clarified tomato sauce. On the dish was a line of reddish spice. You are supposed to dip the shrimp in the spice and then eat them with a shot of the tomato vodka. The problem was that the shrimp were better with just the cocktail sauce that came on the side. However, kudos to the chef for attempting to try to pull off this dish.

Next came the main courses – I had the Alaskan halibut with lemon preserves. The dish was nice if unspectacular. My companion had the seared tuna with pasta. This was the dissapointment of the night. The tuna was perfectly seared but strangely bland. We couldn’t figure out if this had been done on purpose. Also, the pasta did not go well with the tuna. The chef is trying to be innovative, but in this case the innovation just didn’t work. The dish would have been better served as two separate dishes with the tuna given a bit more of a kick.

Next came another small snack – I’ll call it a pre-desert. This was the best thing that we had at Eleven. It was a few blueberries (maybe soaked in lemon juice) and Creme Anglaise. It was simple, light and delicious. I would definitely try it again. Sensing a theme (simple = good), we went with the mixed berry sorbet.

Food – Eleven tries to be new and innovative (which I certainly admire). However this is really hard to pull off and Eleven sometimes doesn’t succeed. When they concentrate on the basics, the food is quite good.

Wine – the wine list is excellent and surprisingly expensive. (Is this a Pittsburgh thing? Wines that were $40 a bottle in San Francisco and $50 a bottle in Manhattan are $60 a bottle on this list – however I saw this trend all over Pittsburgh, not just at Eleven).

Ambiance – the space is very nice although the balcony has a less then stellar view (and it's a bit noisy). I'd recommend eating inside.

Service – the service was exceptionally friendly but a little confused (they forgot the name of the wine we ordered and had to come back and ask us what it was). I’m fine with this – I prefer friendly and confused to snooty and professional.

Overall – If I were in Pittsburgh again, I would go back. Stick to the basics on the menu and enjoy.

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