This is probably a little backward.
The first time I went to the one Pittsburgh restaurant everyone — everyone — is talking about and it’s on a night it’s not serving any of its regular menu. It’s on a night the place won’t even serve wine.
Pork. Sauerkraut. Mashed potatoes. Gravy. Little garnish of red-cabbage sprouts. Water, coffee, Penn Brewery’s St. Nikolaus Bock, maybe a couple drinks I didn’t see. But basically, c’est tout.
This is a place I wanted to go for a while. I kept driving by or looking at photos of the food prep the staff put on Twitter — and then procrastinating.
Doing it this way meant I got to see a laid-back and specialized version of the restaurant. One menu item, made in the quantities and with the care they thought best. One beer, the decent and drinkable if thin and watery St. Nikolaus Bock from this year. Still went nicely with the food, but the beer’s flaws were noticeable on a stage like that.
The staff seemed relaxed and service smooth. Have a question, get an answer. No pretense.
This is where I can add my voice to the growing hagiography. It was wonderful. Kitchen cooked the pork sous vide before searing it and made the sauerkraut from scratch. Everything on the plate worked together or alone.
I’ll say this: I’m glad I like butter. The gravy was damn near a pool of it, silky and deep, but I never lost the pork flavor. The kraut came pretty close to overpowering the delicate, soft pork when I put the two on the same fork. But add in a little of the gravy or cut back on the amount of the sauerkraut and it was all good. Even the sprouts worked. Their flavor disappeared on me in a muddle of everything else, but the texture by itself added something.
All that at $15 a plate. More please.
Now, take this for what you will. My wife liked the sauerkraut. She hates sauerkraut and refuses to eat it, having grown up on the nasty bagged stuff that tastes mostly like ammonia and vinegar.
We went in knowing there would be sauerkraut. They were up front about it. She agreed to try it based solely on the place’s reputation.
Which reminded me. A few weeks ago, the restaurant asked on Twitter how seriously to take a customer complaint when the person ordered something against the protestations of his/her own palate. I replied then that a restaurant can’t be responsible for knowing everyone’s likes and dislikes — that’s on the person ordering. And if anything, it’s flattering that someone would try something not expecting to like it just because of who prepared it.
So. My wife. Staring down sauerkraut. (It didn’t stare back. Thank the gods.)
I knew something was different when she took a picture of her food before eating it. This doesn’t happen. She’s hungry, she orders or makes food, she eats food. That’s how it works. I’m the idiot taking pictures of stuff.
Then she got on Twitter and Facebook midmeal. This also doesn’t happen. And I quote. Please click. Please chuckle. I know I did.