Published by Angie. Last Updated on November 21, 2023.
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Ritual House is an upscale modern American restaurant in the Union Trust building in downtown Pittsburgh. On our recent visit for dinner, we had excellent service, although we were a bit let down by the food and drinks.
We thought the menu descriptions of the food and drinks didn't align with what we thought we were ordering, namely in terms of the flavors and presentation. Overall, the proteins in the dishes we ordered were cooked well, but we just thought the flavors had a recurring theme of being far too sweet.
Ritual House is a Beautiful Restaurant Downtown
The first thing you'll notice when you walk into Ritual House is likely the group of swinging chairs suspended from the ceiling- it's a bright and garden-themed space, perfect for all of your social media photos and selfies. (They were always busy such that we, sadly, did not grab a photo during our visit.)
The dining areas and bar span multiple floors- our table was in the level closest to the door. We've always thought this space was awkward, even when previous restaurants were in this space. We think it kind of feels like a hotel lobby or a place you should be walking through to get somewhere else with the rest of the restaurant disconnected from the area.
Design critiques aside, we settled in and browsed the drink menu. Cocktails include crowd-pleasing flavors with a slant towards fruitiness. The wine list leans heavy into California, and the draft beer list is quite small with the likes of Miller Lite and Yuengling (plus a few bottle options with one or two local choices). The focus here is on cocktails, so naturally, we went that route.
We tried the Rye Not with Bulleit Rye, Aperol, passionfruit, lemon, and orange. For what we thought would be a spirit-forward drink, it was a little surprising that it was served over small ice cubes, and it was a little sweeter than we expected. We also tried the signature Ritual Margarita, with tequila, carrot juice, Cointreau, lime, agave, and a hibiscus salt rim. The carrot flavor was interesting but overall, this drink was simply way too sweet for our palates.
This trend continued into the food.
Some Confusion on the Menu
The food menu is geared toward universal flavors like shrimp cocktail and crab fondue to start; soups, salads, and dumplings; hefty signature entrees like steaks and short ribs; plus a few seafood and vegetarian options, too.
To start, we tried the fried burrata which was plated on a creamy tomato sauce and drizzled with basil oil and a balsamic glaze. The fry on the burrata was light and crispy, and the sauces were balanced and well-seasoned. This dish was our favorite of the meal.
Sweet and sour Brussels sprouts were a second appetizer for the night which, while having an expected sweetness, was perfectly balanced with a zippy acidity from the citrus that we appreciated.
For entrees, we tried the Asian-inspired fried chicken with Szechuan syrup and Asian slaw. The chicken was fried excellently, with lots of perfectly crispy, craggy bits and a not-too-thick batter, and the portion was also huge.
Unfortunately, we thought the Szechuan syrup made the chicken way too sweet for what we expected for a dinner entree. The spices felt a fair bit overshadowed by the syrup such that we thought the chicken should've been served over a waffle for brunch instead of an entree for dinner. In fact, we took leftovers home and had them on a biscuit for breakfast the following day, and in that context, it was much more enjoyable.
The other entree we tried was the drunken Chilean sea bass. This one was flavored with miso and orange in a poke broth, with spinach, daikon, and carrots. The fish was cooked to juicy perfection, we just thought that the broth was also intensely sweet and, in our opinion, it overpowered the fish. We also weren't expecting the spinach, daikon, and carrots to be raw and served as a sort of salad in the broth.
Maybe we just ordered the wrong menu items for our palate, but after finishing our entrees, we were left with a such sugar rush that we couldn't have possibly contemplated getting dessert. That was a shame because we absolutely love dessert, and the pastry chef at Ritual House is a bit of a celebrity after winning a competition on Food Network.
The meal's highlight was definitely the service, as our server was very attentive and gave many suggestions on what to order (we, admittedly, probably should've asked more questions about flavor here!). We had a long chat about the delicious-sounding dessert menu despite opting to miss it, and we found out that you can order desserts for takeout which is definitely on our list to try in the future.
Overall, although the proteins in our entrees were cooked exceptionally well, the flavors here missed the mark for us- the recurring sweetness was something that stuck with us well after leaving. Whether or not this was something we misunderstood from the menu descriptions or that we just did not craft a proper meal outright remains to be seen, but this one ended up being not quite what we expected.
Ritual House is located inside the Union Trust building at 524 William Penn Place.