Sonoma Grille: Restaurant Review

24 06 2008

We recently ate at The Sonoma Grille in Pittsburgh, PA. Overall it was an amazing dining experience.

We started with the Tapas Platter for two ($22), which included a Tandori chicken satay with sweet onion ginger sauce; Shrimp Tempura with Asian slaw and scarlet orange and apricot chutney; Flash fried calamari with a twelve pepper remoulade; Ahi ceviche with blood orange, chipotle and pepitas, and plantain chips; and Duck confit and apple samosa with cilantro mint chimichurri.

The tapas plates were arranged very uniquely in the middle of the table on a wine barrel stave. The duck confit fritters pleased everyone–even the pickiest of eaters–while the ahi ceviche was bursting with fresh fish and citrus flavors.

We had ordered a single serving appetizer of the calamari ($9) before we realized that it was the same as the tapas platter. This came before everything and even though it was fresh, lightly breaded, and tasted like squid is supposed to taste like, it was a little too small for $9. I am of the mindset of American portions being obscenely large, but this appetizer was small enough that it appeared in the middle of the table, served on a bread plate, and half of us didn’t even notice it was there.

The menu was overwhelming at first, but had a nice variety of choices. I was tempted to try the $85 4-course with wine paring menu but I’m glad I didn’t because I would have gorged more than I did. Instead I chose the “Mixed Grill” option, which was kind of like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” meal.

The “two selections” of a main dish was $24 and I chose the Spicy cilantro and lime crab cake (4oz) and Filet mignon and mushroom kabob (5oz). I could then choose two different sauces, from which I got the Zinfandel demi-glace and the Harissa cumin mayonnaise. My side was the last choice, and I opted for the side of the day, which was fettuccini with an olive and artichoke sauce.

Everything on my plate was phenomenal: cooked and seasoned perfectly. I probably would have been happy with the $14 option of just one main dish, but I almost cleaned my plate because everything tasted so good.

The other meals of choice were:

Grilled Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola scalloped potatoes, smoked tomato demiglace, grilled asparagus for $26 (one of these was asked to be lightly seasoned, and to substitute green beans for the asparagus, which was not a problem for the chef). The picky eater was satisfied with their lightly seasoned filet.

Cowboy Bone in rib eye steak (18 oz.) for $38 with a side of Perucian potato and alouette pierogis for $8. The Rib eye had a bourbon glaze that brought to mind woodsmoke and old whiskey and bourbon barrels. The cut of meat was excellent, a solidly fatty piece of rib eye, but not overwhelmingly so, with no noticeable gristle or other detractors. Doneness was requested at medium rare, and was delivered just right. The pierogies were very well prepared, with a sort of beet slaw mixed with fresh cream beneath the tasty packages that has been lightly pan cooked with an exterior that was neither too soft nor too hard, but just right.

The one possible detractor to the overall experience would be décor. It was a little “tired,” kind of like a family restaurant, but it was packed from 7:00 when we got there to 9:30 when we left. The service was slow or relaxed, depending how you like it. Some servers did not seem as knowledgeable as they should have been, especially with such extensive food and drink menus.

The wine list is bold, inventive, and extensive. All the wines are from the United States, with a heavy concentration from Sonoma Valley or other parts of California. The owner selects wines from all over the place without even tasting them, since his knowledge of various producers and vineyards from the regions where he buys wine is quite extensive.

The owner also owns Seviche across the street from the Sonoma Grille, which had al fresco dining and a line out the front by the time we left at 9:30. While dining we got word that the team behind Sonoma Grille may be adding new restaurants in various locations. We’ll be sure to follow up and let you know as soon as we hear more!




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