Mr. Beez and I went on a double date with our foodie friends, Christine and Trav, to Alma Pan-Latin Kitchen. Alma is in the Regent Square neighborhood, and offers a “latin fusion” type menu. They are participating in Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, and have offered a special price fixe menu for the occasion. Alma has been talked up significantly lately (see for example praise from Pittsburgh Magazine’s Brazen Kitchen), and I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends who have visited there.
Alma has a diverse cocktail menu and a manageable wine list (there’s variety, but it’s not overwhelming). I started off with a capirinhia, which was nice and citrusy. We also kicked off the meal with their much-acclaimed empanadas. The empanada filling changes frequently, and for our visit it was oxtail.
The empanadas were smaller than I expected, and the pastry was hard (they were freshly fried, so it’s not like they got cold and hard, I was just expecting a soft pastry). They had a nice meaty taste, but I was expecting a little more kick from them. I suspect that Alma truly shines in some of their empanadas varieties, but I think the oxtail wasn’t their strongest. I suppose I had a pretty particular idea in my head of what this dish would be, and it was different, so I was a little confused. It wasn’t bad, though, and I would try out their empanadas again.
The difficulty of visiting a new restaurant is that sometimes your expectations, and its reputation, get ahead of you. I ordered the brisket on the price fixe menu. The brisket was tender, flavorful, and very generously portioned. The trouble was that my expectations were set on a more innovative menu, and this dish was closer to a classic ropa vieja. It was delicious, just not the kind of dish this restaurants’ reputation led me to expect.
I briefly glanced at the standard menu before deciding on the price fixe, so I don’t know if this is on their standard menu. I would hope that it is, because it was very tasty. I would like to try dishes that follow more closely Alma’s reputation for innovation, so for those of you who have been there, point me to the right place on the menu!
For dessert I had the berry sorbet. It had the right balance of creaminess and sweetness, without making your teeth hurt. This kind of sorbet makes me want to get my own ice cream maker, so I can eat all the sorbet I want!
Final Verdict: I liked it a lot. The food was delicious, just not what I was expecting. I would definitely go back, either with adjusted expectations, or with more education on the specific menu options.
I’m sad that Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is over now. It was a fun run. Until next time!