Restaurant Review: Pinati (Squirrel Hill)

As part of an event I set up for Meetup.com‘s Pittsburgh Dining N’at group, I had dinner tonight at Pinati’s, an Israeli restaurant in Squirrel Hill. Afterward, I walked up the hill to The Squirrel Cage for drinks with some of my geek friends (who are not geeks, but merely tech-oriented).

Photo credit: Pop City Media

Pinati
2100 Murray Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
412-422-0404

My rapid-fire summary: great food, but way too intense on the kosher requirement for B.Y.O.B. I usually introduce Pinati’s as having some of the best falafel in Pittsburgh. They have a nice offering of what you might expect from a typical middle eastern restaurant (hummus, baba ganoush, etc.), but they also offer up some “Israeli” items that you might not find elsewhere. All of it is prepared in house–after all, you couldn’t really buy a frozen case of this stuff.

So what did we get? I’ll do my best here…

  • Corey — Falafel sandwich on laffa
  • Me — Beef and cabbage soup / roasted peppers (it had a name)
  • Laura — Falafel salad
  • Sheela — Falafel sandwich on laffa
  • Sandy — Middle eastern appetizer combo

Because I cited the falafel already, I’ll start there. For those of you not in the know, falafel is essentially a seasoned chick pea fritter. At Pinati’s, the falafel has nice crunchy exterior while maintaining a soft but flavorful interior; it has that texture that breaks apart in your hands if you’re not careful. Most other falafel I’ve had in Pittsburgh comes in the form of a hard nugget. It completely lacks the cruncy but delicate texture that I look for in falafel. And yes, Aladdin’s, I’m talking to you.

You can get Pinati’s falafel in a salad, sandwich, or apetizer at Pinati’s. I tend to get the Salad (because that’s they way I am). That having been said, I think it is best enjoyed as part of a falafel sandwich. The texture really lends itself to falling along side Israeli salad and tahini wrapped in a pita.

Now for the soup. I wouldn’t characterize Pinati’s soup as “hearty.” It certainly isn’t as much a stew as the soup I would tend to make for myself. That having been said, it wasn’t all broth either. The beef and cabbage soup was packed with flavor and what tasted like little chunks of beef brisket that had clearly been given adequate cooking time to really fall apart while still maintaining that nice strandy texture that I associate with roasted brisket. There was just enough rice to give it a little bit of texture, but I would have liked to see a few more vegetable chunks. For instance, where was all the cabbage?

For as good as the beef and cabbage soup was tonight, I must say that I’ve had soup at Pinati’s in the past that really lacked flavor. It was just–insufficient. The last time I was there and ordered a bowl of soup, it came out way too thin and lacking in flavor. I’m glad that wasn’t the case this time, and I’m hopeful that my bad soup experience was an outlier (or a hurdle that’s been overcome).

The roasted pepper dish that I ordered was one of their standard sides. The dish had a name, but not even my waitress could pronounce it. I’m only familiar with a couple of these sides (which include Israeli salad and baba ganoush). That having been said, they all sound worth trying. I enjoyed them and would really like to head out there at some point with a group of people to just order every one of their sides and give them all a try. Perhaps that’s an event that will happen a little later.

Now, what’s bad about Pinati’s? Mainly their kosher free B.Y.O.B requirement. I’m all for allowing a restaurant to be Kosher. I view kosher in much the same way as I view vegetarianism. There’s nothing wrong with being Kosher, and I can fully support the goal. What I can’t support is inconveniencing others as a result of your kosher requirement. Pinati’s keeps kosher–an admirable goal. They also lack a liquor license. For that type of dining establishment, I would expect them to embrace B.Y.O.B–with a corkage fee if they must. That is, in fact, what they offer, with one major caveat: you better bring something Kosher. From my perspective, requiring a kosher bottle of wine (or beer) is so limiting that they might as well be dry. That bothers me, and detracts significantly from my opinion of Pinati’s as a prime destination in Squirrel Hill.

Pinati Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

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7 Responses to “Restaurant Review: Pinati (Squirrel Hill)”

  1. Corey Says:
    February 27th, 2009 at 8:34 am

    I liked the Falafel, but prefer it from Leena’s, which I spoke about last night:

  2. mike Says:
    February 28th, 2009 at 7:35 am

    You did mention Leena’s last night. I hadn’t heard of the place, but I’m definitely interested in checking it out at some point.

  3. Saurabh Says:
    April 21st, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I think Pinati’s shutdown… went by the place coupel days back and the location is deserted….

  4. mike Says:
    April 21st, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Yes. That is true. I noticed the last time I walked by and even took a picture with every intention to mention it here. I posted the photo and summary in a new post.

  5. Steve Says:
    June 8th, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Your comment about kosher wines is simply incorrect, and shows that you have not kept up with developments in kosher wine for the last, oh, thirty years. You can easily find excellent kosher wines from just about any wine-producing region of the world. In Squirrel Hill, where this review was from, one could go to Pinsker’s and peruse a superb collection of kosher wines of all tastes, prices, etc.

  6. Callie Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Kosher is a religious requirement, not simply a food preference. Kosher wine is prepared differently and while its unfortunate to inconvenience people its not as if it isn’t put pretty bluntly. Allowing non-kosher wine to be poured into the glasses would cause them to lose their kosher mark and thereby render the money and effort put into making it a kosher establishment all for naught.
    Pinksers nearly next door has a wide selection of kosher wine from Italy, Israel, Austrilia,Spain and the U.S. … and it is comparable to any similarly priced wine from the regular liquor store.

    Although it doesn’t matter as this place has closed unfortunately it is pretty infuriating to see there being complaints that ONE restaurant in Pittsburgh wouldn’t allow non-kosher wine to be poured into its glasses, honestly that shows a complete lack of understanding as to why kosher laws are followed and their significance. Instead of complaining please first consider and investigate the motives. We cannot discriminate against some cultures and religions b/.c they pose an inconvenience in our dining options.

    If another kosher restaurant (other than a pizza joint) comes back into Pittsburgh perhaps you can review it without complaining that they are sticking to their convictions to keep the place kosher instead of ruining it all so you can drink a particular bottle of wine…. And hopefully this new kosher estabilshment if it ever appears will be allowed to get a liquor license (a hard thing in Pittsburg)

  7. Callie Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Also, about 99 percent of beer is kosher (and doesn’t require a mark). And the 1 percent that aren’t are also nearly impossible to find. So you shouldn’t have had a problem with that.

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