In the ever changing landscape that is East Liberty, Spoon is one of the more established restaurants with a decade-long foothold in the neighborhood. With a stellar gin bar, a mix of classic and creative small plates and fine dining mains, and all-around great service, it's easy to see why Spoon is a mainstay in the neighborhood.
Spoon has long been on our list of restaurants to try, but we only recently made it in. Our hesitation was because on the surface the restaurant seemed like any other fine dining restaurant in Pittsburgh.
But after our visit we're convinced it's more than that with great attention to detail in the food and service, and overall a delicious and memorable dining experience.
Go for the Small Plates at Spoon
Even reading the menu won't quite prepare you for the delightful details of each dish- fish, pasta, chicken, and steak plates dominate the mains. But you get a hint at the creativity in the small plate menu with bites like Dan Dan noodles, foie gras on nut bread French toast, and torched hamachi with miso caramel.
We ordered a ridiculous number of appetizers with our group, but that turned out to be an excellent decision as these were probably our favorite part of the meal.
We sampled the goat cheese souffle, ricotta dumplings, Hawaiian rolls, and steak tartare. The goat cheese souffle was creamy and light with frisee, grapefruit, and shrimp. The frisee and grapefruit provided some interesting bitter counterpoints. The ricotta dumplings were spongy medallions covered in a rich, earthy mushroom sauce.
The Hawaiian rolls were stuffed with pork belly, fried crawfish, tomato, onion, and chipotle aioli. This one was the only bite that didn't really do it for us. And finally, the steak tartare, which I normally don't care for, had me going back for more. Little bits of shallot and parsley popped in some freshness, and it was served with delicious crispy fries and aioli.
Jeremy couldn't pass up the burger for his entree. When it was served to us, just looking at it we didn't think it would be anything out of the ordinary. But just one bite and we were in love- the meat was perfectly cooked just as we ordered it (medium rare) and not overdone as is so common in Pittsburgh. Kim-cheese, hot and sour pickles, ginger mayo and barbecue sauce provided a good combo of tangy, spicy, and creamy.
I ordered the curried scallops for my main course. This dish started with small scallops that were cooked fairly well with a good sear, served in a bowl of red curry sauce that was creamy with coconut milk and not too spicy. We would have loved it even spicier.
Chunks of sweet potato were perfect for mashing and soaking up the sauce. A few clams were also on the side of the dish, which were just fine. Fresh basil and mint on top were so deceptively simple, yet provided an explosion of fresh flavors that really set this dish apart.
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One of the Best Gin Menus in Pittsburgh
We would be remiss if we didn't talk about the gin menu at Spoon. Luckily we knew to ask for the gin menu because it wasn't given to us when we sat down.
The gin selection at Spoon is enough to make any gin lover weep tears of joy. With dozens of gins and an entire gin cocktail menu, Spoon is definitely getting this right. We naturally had to try several different gin cocktails including two different variations on a gin and tonic. The Diabolical gin and tonic was a winner with Hayman's Old Tom along with sparkling wine, house made tonic, and cassis.
Although we love gin we rarely order gin and tonics because they can be hit or miss or just plain underwhelming. The gin and tonics here were extremely noteworthy as they were exploding with flavors we didn't even know you could get in a drink with such simple ingredients.
Overall, the service was helpful but not intrusive, and the meal was timed perfectly. The unique small plates with delightful details, along with the impressive gin menu, make this spot worth returning to.
Spoon is located at 134 S Highland Ave in East Liberty.
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