It’s become obvious over the past five months I’ve been writing this blog that Urbanspoon is an invaluable tool for foodies. Though we’ve been known to give it a “shake” on the iPhone if we’re feeling indecisive in our own neighborhood, the real value and purpose of Urbanspoon is when you are traveling and want to find out where the locals are eating, and what they recommend.
We’ve been to Pittsburgh a handful of times, but this time was special. Instead of our usual road trip to Ikea, followed by a quick meal in the vicinity, or an occasional jaunt downtown (and blindly trying a restaurant), this time DZ had bigger plans. He surprised me with a trip to Fallingwater and asked me to marry him there! It was a beautiful, romantic day, which he had carefully planned and calculated down to every detail. Except for one: where to have dinner. But of course that’s where I come in! So on the drive from Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA back to Pittsburgh where we were staying for the night, I scoured Urbanspoon for something that would fit this special occasion perfectly. It didn’t take me long to find out that Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen is what Pittsburghers are talking about, and that’s just what we were looking for.
Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen is a Latin restaurant, specializing in African influenced dishes. I was immediately intrigued; this is a culture that we miss out on in the food scene of Northeast Ohio. (Plus I adore plantains!) The menu was a wonderful mix of culture and styles, just like the reviews stated. We started with drinks, which for me translated to the special cocktail of the night: a horchata martini. Already I was in love. This martini was delightful and made with great care, just as our server promised. It tasted just like a traditional sweet, frothy horchata, but with a “kick”.
Choosing an entree, or even an appetizer was no easy task, since everything on the menu sounded amazing. Above you are seeing just a snippet of the available selections. We liked the detailed descriptions (and translations), along with the country of origin that inspired the dish.
We started with plantains that were fried and subtly sweet, and served with a black bean puree with a spicy salsa and side of peppers to add some heat. This dish was flavorful, but light enough that we were still hungry for the main event.
Dave was craving seafood and ordered the special of the night: swordfish prepared with pumpkin, served with a thinly sliced potato and caramelized onions, and a grilled beet soaked in red wine. I mention Dave’s meal first because it arrived first, a good five minutes before mine. A slight snafu in the kitchen turned out to benefit me, because it gave me the chance to appreciate Dave’s dish. Neither of us could recall having swordfish before and were pretty surprised to learn what we had been missing. This was probably one of the best seafood dishes I’ve ever had in my life. The pumpkin flavor was very subtle, despite having julienned pumpkin sitting on top of the char-grilled fish. It was incredibly mild, but so flavorful at the same time. The potatoes were buttery with a slight crunch, and with the sweet onions were loaded with flavor as well. The surprise was the grilled beet, which literally tasted like it had absorbed every bit of the red wine marinade and was bursting with it – it was tender and completely amazing, easily the best preparation of a beet I’ve ever had.
A short while later, our server apologetically delivered my meal, which was a Cuban dish of grilled pork loin with pineapple and white sweet potato puree. This dish was excellent also. The pork was cooked perfectly – blackened on the outside but just slightly pink in the center. The sweet potato puree was very smooth, almost to an airy consistency. And the charred pineapple brought in a welcome twist. The plating was beautiful, but not so “fancy” as to sacrifice portion. Both of our meals were filling, without being gratuitously over-sized.
We were so utterly content with every aspect of our meals that we had to order dessert; it was a very special occasion after all, and what mind-blowing meal is complete without coffee and a sweet accompaniment?!
I was majorly tempted by the flan (again, we don’t get much of this in OH). But Dave was eying the chocolate cake, so we decided to again seek a recommendation from our server, who to this point had steered us in the right direction. Without hesitation, he said his favorite dessert was the chocolate cake, so we obediently ordered. This cake had an incredibly moist, almost spongy consistency, infused with liquid chocolate and caramel sauce. Next to it was a lovely pairing of cinnamon ice cream and a light dollop of fresh whipped cream with a subtle sweetness. This is what I dream about. Too insanely fantastic to even describe.
All I can say here is THANK YOU Urbanspoon for bringing us to this adorable restaurant in Regent Square, a charming neighborhood that we wouldn’t have known existed. Alma was an unforgettable experience of international cuisine, great ambiance, and surprising value for the quality of food. Having been open for less than six months, the sky is the limit for this little gem. The glowing reviews are true and we couldn’t have asked for a better meal on this special day. We’ll be back for the “anniversary” of our engagement next year, that is, if we can wait that long.