Spectacular. That word best describes our meal at Spoon last Thursday evening.
On our way into the restaurant, we noticed large sculptural spoons replacing traditional door pulls at the entrance – nice touch.
Spoon occupies the space that was once The Red Room. The same floor plan still exists, but the interior design is far different.
The inside of Spoon is sophisticated, but not intimidating. Warm colors adorn the walls, with high-end materials and fixtures throughout. Warm lighting creates a welcoming space. Although the restaurant was close to full capacity, the acoustics were soft – we had no problem carrying on a conversation.
Immediately upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by two well-dressed hostesses.
After we were seated, our waiter appeared with drink menus. Still waiting for the rest of our party, we opted to place our cocktail order. I ordered a Dogfish Head beer, and my dinner-mate selected an amaretto sour. Our dinner guests arrived, and asked to see the wine menu. Unable to decide on a good red, our waiter suggested that they try a few house selections. The beer, cocktail, and red wine were all exceptional, but unfortunately, our server took almost ½ hour getting them to us.
The menu at Spoon is simple and elegant. The Chef offers a nice variety of options for almost every palate, including selections for vegetarians. We really wanted to experience food at Spoon, so we chose two appetizers, and a salad. We had to try the Chicken Wings- “braised and crispy” ($7.00) crispy boneless bites, gochujang vinagrette, sesame + garlic dressing, grilled wings, orange chili glaze,sesame + apple + cabbage slaw, the Poblano “Chili Rellenos”: ($8.00) Anson Mills creamy polenta, shrimp, pepper jack cheese, avocado, cilantro crème fraîche, charred and tomato vinaigrette, and the Classic Caesar: ($6.00) romaine hearts, shaved parmesan, garlic croutons.
As we completed our appetizer order, the waiter said, “It’s a good idea to put your entrée order in now, or your food is going to take a really long time to come out…”
So, all of a sudden, our relaxed dining experience turned into a rush-to-choose-your-dish-dash. We all grabbed our menus to hastily choose an entrée.
“What are your specials tonight?”
“We don’t have specials, the Chef likes to concentrate on the menu,” our waiter explained.
After asking for some recommendations, our server explained, “You could throw a dart at anything on the menu and not be disappointed; everything is amazing here… we even make our own bacon.”
Two of us decided on the Horseradish + Crab Crusted Salmon: ($24.00) crispy gnocchi, “crab cake,” haricot verts, and sauce béarnaise. Also ordered were the Grilled Filet + Braised Beef Short Ribs: ($34.00) white cheddar creamed corn, roasted baby vegetables, natural sauce, baby arugula and blue cheese salad, and the Miso Glazed Butterfish: ($28.00) with tempura prawns, sesame broccolini, braised diakon, orange + chili glaze, sweet soy reduction, micro-cilantro.
After 20 minutes, our appetizers arrived. The Caesar salad looked fresh and bountiful. The romaine leaves were bright green and crispy, and the creamy dressing glazed the lettuce beautifully. Large, ultra-thin shavings of parmesan cheese lay atop the lettuce; square croutons finished the dish. The salad was crisp and sweet, and the Caesar dressing had just enough anchovy as to not overwhelm the delicate taste of the romaine. The salty cheese had me grabbing for another mouthful of beer –wonderful! The homemade croutons were seasoned and crisp; they disappeared fast.
The chicken wings were equally tasty. Four wings came, and were served in two variations- deep fried and crispy, and braised, not fried. The fried wings were perfectly crunchy, and flavorful with the accompanying sauce. The braised wings tasted sweet, and the meat was soft – delicious.
The Poblano Pepper came to the table looking like a work of art; perfect slices of ripe avocado balanced on crème fraiche atop the stuffed pepper. A layer of rich tomato vinaigrette added to the presentation. The pepper was fried crisply. The combination of flavors and textures in this dish were remarkable.
As the server’s assistant cleared our empty appetizer plates, we noticed that other guests had bread on their tables.
“May we have some bread?”
“You guys didn’t get bread? I’ll be right back with some.”
A small basket of homemade cornbread mini-muffins appeared, and were delicious. One of the selections was chive-cream cheese puff; perfect with a small pat of butter.
As we waited for our entrees, we noticed a special birthday dessert platter being delivered to the table next to us. There was a small trio of concoctions including a milk chocolate mini beverage, chocolate mousse, and a chocolate beignet. As it was being served, we all stopped and looked in amazement at the artistry of the dish.
Our entrees were served, and we dug right in. My salmon was cooked medium, just as I ordered. The fish was sweet, and not overly seasoned. The lump crab meat was atop the salmon was a perfect complement to the fish, as was the buttery béarnaise sauce
The Miso-Glazed Butter Fish was my favorite. Perfectly cooked, the fish was tender, sweet and melted in my mouth. The miso glaze brought out the natural flavors; we could have easily eaten several portions. The accompanying tempura prawns, broccolini, and braised daikon were fragrant with their orange-chili reduction.
The filet of beef was tender, and the jus sauce enhanced the flavor of the meat. The braised short ribs (another favorite of mine) were succulent; evidence of the slow-cooking process.
The talent in the kitchen at Spoon is obvious. Brian Pekarcik, Executive Chef and Proprietor of Spoon, although young, already has an impressive culinary history. He’s worked in, and helped open restaurants on the West Coast, as well as the East Coast, and trained under European Master Chef Martin Woesle. When asked about what he was trying to accomplish with the opening of Spoon, Chef Brian said, “I wanted to open a neighborhood restaurant; a place where people would come to eat more than once a month – a friendly restaurant with no pretense, casual yet sophisticated.”
Clearly, he has done just that. Although the level of sophistication is high, you can still dine at Spoon without feeling intimidated or pretentious.
Spoon is, in my opinion, one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh. The food is carefully prepared and fresh; made by a highly skilled and proficient chef. Make sure to make a reservation soon – as Spoon’s reputation continues to flourish, it’s going to be more and more difficult to get in the door.
Chef Chuck Kerber
134 South Highland Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15206