Fish Nor Fowl, the newest Richard DeShantz restaurant located in East Liberty, bills its cuisine and concept as undefinable. That may come across as a cop out answer or maybe even arrogant, but after having dinner there recently, we would have to agree that the experience is truly mesmerizing and doesn't really fit into one box.
That said, it does make comprehending the menu a bit of a challenge. Seated in the intimate upstairs dining area, I'm pretty sure we spent a good 15 minutes trying to dissect the menu and asking our very patient server questions before we decided what to order.
This time planning was a good thing as it allowed us to craft a truly epic tasting menu of our own design.
An Attempt to Categorize Fish Nor Fowl
Even though Fish Nor Fowl bills itself as undefinable, we'd like to think it is our job to at least attempt to define it all the same.
The menu is split up into Water, Field, and Farm sections, basically translating to seafood dishes, vegetable-forward dishes, and meat dishes.
Brilliantly, every single dish has its own cocktail pairing that was created to complement that specific dish, as well as its own wine pairing. The cocktail and wine pairings are also set up such that the drinks within each section (water, field, or farm) generally match with all of the dishes in that section. (You can see why we needed a minute.)
With all of that figured out, we decided to order four plates to split. The scallop crudo and agnolotti came out together, and just by the presentation alone we knew we were in for a real treat.
The scallop crudo was tender slices of beautiful scallops with watermelon juice, basil oil, green strawberries, and the thinnest jalapeno slices. We decided to order the cocktail pairing for this dish, a mezcal cocktail with algae and blue curacao. The drink was a very lovely green color almost like glacial water, and the overall flavor was very slightly savory.
The combination of the scallops and the cocktail was insanely refreshing and reminiscent of the sea.
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The agnolotti also came out with the scallop dish and were filled with a smooth, creamy white bean puree. The pasta enveloping the bean puree was so tender and the garlicky olive oil sauce was just perfect. The intriguing note in this dish was the pickled scapes – we definitely had to peek at the menu again to remind ourselves of what ingredient was providing this tangy, vinegary counterpoint.
Our next two dishes that came out together were the foie gras and the lamb tongue.
The foie gras was served as thin slices along with miso, sour cherries, vanilla oil, long pepper, and shiso. The foie gras was so buttery and velvety and literally melted in our mouths. The sour cherries gave a beautiful contrasting punch of tartness.
I wasn't sure what exactly to expect from the lamb tongue dish, but it turned out to be one of our favorites. The tongue was incredibly tender with a meaty, gravy-like sauce on top. It was served with sweet potatoes which had a surprising and delicious smokey meatiness. A few hunks of sweet, juicy figs were also in the mix, and crispy sweet potato leaves topped the whole thing off.
We also ordered the cocktail pairing for the lamb tongue which was a combination of a savory italian red bitters, rye, vermouth rojo, rosemary, curacao, and bitters. The rosemary was clipped to the glass with an adorable mini clothespin, and it was smoked so that I got a slight smoke flavor every time I took a sip (even though the drink itself wasn't smokey). Overall this was a well-balanced but deliciously savory cocktail that married so well with the meatiness of the lamb tongue.
Don't Skip Dessert While Here
Based on the inventiveness of the dishes up to this point, we knew we had to get dessert. We opted for the chocolate dessert which was creamy and decadent with crunchy bits of bee pollen and crispy basil. (We love how contrasting textures were so well-utilized throughout the whole meal!)
Even the desserts have dessert wine pairings, which we naturally had to check out. The sweet raisin notes of the Finca Hispana cream sherry paired delightfully with the richness of the chocolate.
I don't think we've ever talked about a meal so intensely and for so long afterward as we did after our dinner at Fish Nor Fowl. We were still talking about the meal weeks later, trying to comprehend all of the brilliant flavor combinations we had experienced.
Although Pittsburgh certainly wouldn't have been ready for this type of restaurant three or even two years ago, we are really hopeful that now is the time. Our experience definitely left us wanting to go back until we've tried everything on the menu, including the cocktail combinations- and that's not something we say all too often!
Fish Nor Fowl is located at 5523 Penn Avenue in Garfield.
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