I had been wanting to try Toast! Kitchen and Wine Bar for more than a year now, even before the restaurant had been named the best new restaurant of 2009 by Pittsburgh Magazine and Executive Chef Chet Garland received the magazine’s “Rising Star Chef” nod, but those awards only further piqued my interest. Time and a general lack of desire among friends and family members who I asked to accompany me kept getting in the way. Until last weekend, when two of my more adventurous foodie friends and I finally made it there.
After such a lengthy build up, I was worried the restaurant wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Thankfully, that could not be farther from the truth.
The menu, which changes nightly to reflect that day’s fresh ingredients, had so many extraordinary options that I had a difficult time deciding what to order. Mushroom risotto or truffle mac and cheese? Hanger steak or red snapper? Never mind dessert.
From the very first bite, the meal was everything I expected it to be. In the bread basket were a few slices of caraway-sea salt bread, which is one of my all-time favorites. (There were other breads, too, for those who are not fans of caraway.) I don’t know if the bread is made in-house or ordered from a bakery, but I give points for both variety (i.e., not just sourdough) and excellent crust.
My truffle mac and cheese appetizer arrived very quickly (seemingly in less than five minutes, a little too quickly for my preferences, since I hadn’t even finished my bread yet), but once I got a whiff of the dish, I was ready to dig in. Have you ever seen some of the judges on Iron Chef America who complain when the contestants present a truffle dish? “I feel like you’re trying to buy me with these truffles” or “I cannot be bought with truffles,” they often chorus. Well, let me state right here for the record, I CAN be bought with truffles. The heady aroma and rich taste get me every time. Anyway, back to the dish: the mac was actually orzo pasta, which was an unexpected but pleasant twist, and the cheese sauce was smooth and flavorful, well complemented by the truffles.
For my entrée, I had settled on the hanger steak, which came so highly recommended by our waiter that all three of us ordered it. The steak was tender, perfectly seasoned, and perfectly cooked. It was accompanied by a creamy yet crusty potato soufflé and squash that had been shredded and caramelized, with a deep, dark color and equally deep and slightly sweet flavor.
Deciding on dessert was another affair. Balsamic ice cream with strawberries? Lime basil crème brulee? After being overwhelmed with so much flavor (and Argentinean pinot noir) during my meal, I just couldn’t decide, so I took the easy way out and ordered the doughnuts. If there was one part of the meal I wished I could reorder, this was it. Although they were perfectly fine, with a light dough, thick fried crust, and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar, they weren’t spectacular, and actually may have been a little on the dry side. I wish that they had been served with a dipping sauce, perhaps chocolate or berry. If I could make the choice again, I would have gone with the balsamic ice cream.
Toast! Kitchen and Wine Bar
5102 Baum Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224