Written By: Jennifer Grace
To celebrate our anniversary this year, my boyfriend and I decided to get all gussied up and ventured to Isabela on Grandview, a restaurant perched high atop Mount Washington in Pittsburgh. Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted by a friendly hostess who seated us in the upstairs dining room, a small room that boasts three walls of large windows that overlook the entire city, offering a truly spectacular view. The back section of the dining room opened into the kitchen, where two chefs could be seen working tirelessly to prepare meals for patrons. The overall atmosphere was elegant and upscale, but not stuffy. Since we were dining on a Saturday, the prix fixe menu was the only offering at the restaurant: a seven course meal which includes an amuse bouche portion (a bite-size portion that precedes meals), appetizer, first course (fish), sorbet, second course (meat), salad, and dessert. The amuse bouche, sorbet, and salad are pre-selected by the chefs but all other courses can be chosen from a list of three different options per course. The prix fixe menu costs a flat rate of $70 per person – definitely a splurge, but justifiable for rare special occasions, especially with the number of courses that are presented.
Our wait staff consisted of four different servers who took turns assisting us with each course. Each server was friendly, helpful, and attentive. Shortly after ordering, the owner of the restaurant stopped by our table for a quick chat, and two glasses of complimentary champagne. The proprietor also returned later to take our picture, which he printed and given to us as a keepsake; what a thoughtful gesture. My boyfriend and I each ordered a glass of wine after talking with the owner, and began to peruse the menu.
When it came time to order, we made our selections and prepared for the seven course feast. Dinner began with the amuse bouche: a bite-size slice of tomato topped with seaweed and dressed in oil. I then had my appetizer, a chilled ricotta and zucchini gateau with a walnut and olive tapenade, which was creamy and delicious. Our first course arrived shortly after, which for me was seared triggerfish with potatoes and dandelion greens. This was my favorite course of the evening; although it was a bit salty, the fish was perfectly prepared and had a nice, slightly crunchy crust to it. After the first course, we were presented with a very small scoop of beet, grape, and black pepper sorbet which was unusual but tasty.
For the next course, I chose wagyu beef cheeks which were served in a bowl with rice noodles and crushed peanuts. The meat was very tender and delicious although the dish as a whole was a bit too salty and lacking in flavor. My boyfriend also chose this dish for his fifth course and agreed that the dish felt incomplete overall; it seemed to be Thai-inspired but lacked the bold flavor and cohesiveness that most Thai dishes present. The sixth course, a salad of lettuce, pickled peaches, goat cheese, and freshly crushed black pepper was light, delicious, and the perfect follow-up to a heavier meat course. The final course, dessert, consisted of a dark chocolate torte with local honey and orange blossom. The torte was rich, but very good and the honey provided a nice touch of sweetness to balance the heaviness of the dark chocolate. We also enjoyed a cup of coffee with dessert as well as the spectacular view of the Pittsburgh city skyline at night. An added bonus included watching the fireworks show following the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game from the restaurant, the entire city all lit up and gorgeous on such a beautiful evening.
Overall, the food at Isabela’s, although a bit salty at times, was delicious. Variety kept the meal interesting; each dish was truly different from the last. The courses are scaled down from the size of a typical entrée, but seven courses present quite a bit of food, so be prepared to arrive hungry and enjoy each of the dishes served by an incredibly friendly and welcoming group of servers. It was a wonderful experience and a great way to celebrate a special occasion!
Written By: Jennifer Grace