Posted by mike | Filed under Reviews
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).
2100 Murray Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
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.