This past week, my wife and I checked out a new restaurant in Pittsburgh called Grit & Grace. It’s located on Liberty Avenue, steps from the Theater District and PNC Park. The chef is Brian Pekarcik (from Spoon). The stated goal is to “push opposites to the extreme to bring a unique and balanced dining experience”, hence the name Grit & Grace. The food has an Asian background, and sharing between everyone at the table is encouraged, especially at dinner time.
The restaurant has only been opened a couple of weeks, but already the place is buzzing with action. We went there for lunch on a Friday afternoon and would not have gotten a table had we not made reservations. The place is immediately welcoming and has a nice feel to it. It reminded me of a bistro, but with a modern vibrant, Asian style.
The staff was very friendly and had us at our table quickly. The lunch menu consists of salads and sandwiches, such as the spicy prawn salad with green papaya, kaykon, carrot, mint, cilantro, basil, garlic, ginger and cashews. There are also noodle dishes such as braised beef short ribs with flat rice noodles, bean sprouts, broccolini, mushrooms, onion and garlic. These dishes range from $6-15 for lunch, and up to $20 for dinner. Not to be forgotten, is a variety of Dim Sum which the staff carries around the restaurant with an option to sample anytime during your meal, for $5 a piece. There is a small, but good, selection of wine (by the bottle or glass), beer, and cocktails.
We first tried a Dim Sum – the Pork Belly bite with orange, chili, garlic and ginger to start our meal. Pork belly might not be healthy with all that fat, but who cares – the pork was perfectly cooked, and every bite a wonderful treat.
Next we went for the crispy tempura eggplant with vegan mayo, smashed chickpea spread, arugula, and smoked cipollini onions. It came on a wonderful toasted foccacia that had my wife’s mouth watering. The flavors of the eggplant with the chickpea spread, mayo, and smoked onions was flavorful. Her only criticism was that the thick bread overpowered the eggplant. She felt that there needed to be more of the other ingredients between the buns to balance the sandwich.
We also had the smoked brisket with kohlrabi kraut, thousand island sabayon, pickled red onions, corned beef tongue, and horseradish cream on a baguette. Simply put, it was delicious. The baguette was toasted perfectly and there was just the right balance between all the ingredients in every bite for a very satisfying sandwich.
We weren’t planning to go for dessert, but when our waiter described the first one, we had to try it. I do not recall what he called it exactly, but it consisted of several chocolate truffles layered on ginger flavored Mochi (a Japanese rice cake) sitting on a bath of crème Anglaise and crunched fruity pebble cereal. Let me tell you, this was a perfect way to end the meal. It’s not uncommon for me to have a wonderful meal at a restaurant ruined by a poorly conceived dessert, but this was not the case as it was one of the best dessert I’ve had at a restaurant in a long time. The ginger, combined with the chocolate truffle, the crème, and the crunch of the pebbles was amazing. The only negative was that we had opted to share it between the both of us – big mistake, and next time we’re each getting our own.
Grit and Grace is a wonderful addition to the Pittsburgh restaurant scene. Chef Pekarcik has created an innovative menu that takes common food out of the box. Everything is made with fresh ingredients and is well prepared. It’s a perfect place to meet colleagues and friends for lunch, after work or for dinner. I highly recommend it. Reservations are a must (opentable.com). To check out their menu, go to http://www.gritandgracepgh.com