Casbah is one of the more upscale restaurants of the Big Burrito group, billing itself as a Mediterranean restaurant and wine bar. Our overall impression from several visits is that the food is perfectly fine- if you're into straightforward meat, veggie, and starch dishes you'll fit right in here. If you're looking for dishes that are a little more outside the box and have nontraditional flavor profiles, you might have a bit more trouble finding something here that tickles your fancy.
Doesn't Quite Fit an Upscale Vibe
One thing that has always sort of bothered me about Casbah is the patio area. The main dining room of the restaurant is incredibly small, so more often than not you'll get seated in the enclosed patio area. The patio has outdoor style metal furniture and a concrete floor, all of which give a casual vibe that doesn't really mesh with the entree prices.
The wine menu is pretty extensive, especially for wines by the glass. Wine flights are also offered, which we were very tempted on ordering. Instead we stuck with a glass of syrah and some cocktails. The syrah was recommended by our waiter to accompany my lamb shank. I don't normally enjoy syrah but the dry tannins went well with the meaty lamb which I ordered on my entree. The first cocktail we tried was the Penicillin, which was a honey and citrus infused scotch (that was quite heavy on the citrus), as well as Winter is Coming, a fortified bourbon cocktail that Jeremy could drink all night.
As we waited on our appetizer we had some delicious bread made by the Big Burrito restaurant Eleven accompanied by some creamy salted butter and a housemade labneh.
Delicious, Delicious Food
For our appetizer we tried the grilled octopus, which was by far the most unique dish of the night. The smokey flavor of the charred octopus was accompanied by a sweet sherry gastrique, tangy and bright fennel and orange, and salty prosciutto. There were lots of different textures going on, too, which kept things interesting until the plate was finished.
For entrees we tried the orecchiete with grilled chicken. This pasta dish was creamy and hearty with a sage cream sauce, balanced by some tangy goat cheese and sweet dried cranberries. This dish was pure upscale comfort food!
We also couldn't pass up the lamb shank, which is simply an impressive sight to look at when it comes to your table. The lamb is from nearby Jamison Farm (it's nice to see lots of local suppliers listed on the menu). The meat was moist, tender, and smothered in a meaty jus. Accompaniments included sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts. There were also dried cherries incorporated which had a good flavor; I could have used more of that cherry flavor in the sauce and throughout the dish to bring some brightness and tanginess to the otherwise heavy entree.
Fine Dining Food Could Push the Boundaries More
In general, I can't really say that Casbah does anything wrong; I just feel that for a meal with this high of a price tag, I'd expect to be “wowed” much more. The grilled octopus appetizer definitely pushed these boundaries and was one of the best appetizers we've had in recent memory, but the entrees were simply well executed fine dining fare- and there is nothing wrong with that.
Casbah is located at 229 S. Highland Avenue in Shadyside.
Looking for more restaurants from the Big Burrito restaurant group? Why not check out Kaya Pittsburgh, Soba, or Eleven! Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!
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