Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pittsburgh Blue Review (Edina)

I am a huge fan of Parasole Restaurants. Everything they do is done to an incredibly high standard and they always seem to get everything right. I am madly in love with Manny's, their celebration of all-things carnivore in the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis. Incredible selection of beef and one of the greatest wine lists in Twin Cities!

Parasole has just rolled out their latest concept, Pittsburgh Blue, in the Edina market. Located in the Galleria, it is a welcome addition to the southwest suburbs (which are inexplicably bereft of a decent steakhouse). "Pittsburgh Blue" refers to the way that Pittsburgh steelworkers used to eat their steaks: "charred black on the outside, cold and raw on the inside".

The menu is nowhere near as ambitious as Manny's. This is understandable as Pittsburgh Blue is the start of a chain of restaurants (they have one other store so far in Maple Grove) and Manny's is a one-of-kind mecca for steak lovers.The featured steak on the Pittsburgh Blue menu is filet mignon. While that's not my first love in the beef world, the uniform cut of a filet makes it a chain operator's dream. It's the easiest steak to prepare and cook to perfection every single time.

The Edina location has not been open very long. When we went last night, it was just their second weekend of operation. So far they have just had a soft opening to get things operating perfectly. This turns out to be a very good idea as what we experienced showed they are not yet ready for a hard opening. In fact, we experienced two different restaurants last night (hello Sybil). The food side of Pittsburgh Blue got everything right. The bar side of Pittsburgh Blue was a catastrophic failure.

It was a Friday night and both our boys were out, so Judy and I decided to head to the newest place in Edina. Our reservation was for 6:15pm and when we got there, it was a mob scene. What bad economy? We were seated right away and immediately placed an order for two glasses of our favorite white wine, Conundrum. It's Friday, time to relax and have a nice glass of wine. But then our waitress returned ten minutes after we placed our order and said the bar was really busy and she could not get our wine: "Would you just like to order dinner instead?" My answer was an incredulous "no".

Amazingly, she came back two more times with the same response. You know, it's Friday night....we're out on an all-too infrequent date...and we would really like to relax with some wine. How does one get a wine named Conundrum from a bar that goes by the same name? Well, finally, twenty minutes after placing our wine order, two glasses of Conundrum appeared. Fearing a similar experience with the food, we placed our food order immediately.

On the food side, there was no need for concern. Our salads appeared in very short order and they were extraordinary. Judy had the Spinach Goat Cheese Salad and I had their Caesar. So often these are constructed with pre-made foodservice dressing, but not at Pittsburgh Blue. The dressings were incredibly fresh and delicious. My Caesar dressing had the perfect balance of lemon and garlic...something I never find out in the wild.

Dinner followed right on the heels of the salads. Judy had the sea bass and I ordered the evening's special, a bone-in, dry-aged rib eye. I ordered the steak medium rare and it could not have been cooked more perfectly... a nice, deep char on the outside and a warm red center. It was a most spectacular steak and my heart leapt with joy knowing that  it was now possible to get a great steak without having to drive downtown.

Now, back to the bar called conundrum. When we placed our dinner order, I had also ordered a bottle of Pinot Noir to be served with the dinner. It did not arrive when dinner arrived. I had to remind our waitress to bring it after the food was served. One-third of the way through dinner, she came back without a bottle and asked me if I wanted the wine decanted. I told her I just wanted the wine, no need to decant. Half-way through dinner, she came with a bottle of wine...but not the one I ordered. Two-thirds of the way through dinner, she did show up with the correct wine, but she was unable to open it. She got a manager to open it and he made the first pour...just as we finished our meal.

The manager felt very bad that this had happened and picked up the cost of the wine. It was an expensive bottle of wine and I was most grateful for this kind gesture. But was I surprised? No. This is a Parasole restaurant and as I said at the beginning, they operate at an incredibly high standard and always seem to get everything right. This restaurant is still on it's shakedown cruise and they are working out the kinks to get it running in true Parasole fashion. I would have definitely preferred wine with dinner over a free bottle after dinner, but they did the right thing.

I'm here to tell you that the food side of the restaurant is fabulous. Knowing Parasole, they will get the bar side up to their usual high standard. I strongly encourage you to give it a's that good. Judy and I are headed back there at our earliest convenience. But you better get there fast, for the minute they are firing on all cylinders you won't be able to get a reservation to save your soul. And that, too, will be a conundrum.

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