Last Updated on July 1, 2022 by Angie
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Spork is a unique fine dining restaurant that is not just fancy, it's creative and delicious, too.
We recently celebrated our anniversary at Spork, and while the meal was certainly a splurge (our second most expensive in Pittsburgh), we thought the complexity and intrigue of each dish, along with the complimentary small plates interspersed throughout the meal, made this an unforgettable dining experience that we would happily repeat.
Spork is a Leader in Pittsburgh Fine Dining
Spork has all the touches you'd expect from a fine dining restaurant, without all the stuffiness. On our recent visit we were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and a complimentary welcome bite, a creamy mushroom miso soup that was luxurious and had layers of flavor. These surprise touches set the celebratory tone for the evening.
We eased right on into the cocktail menu with By Grabthar's Hammer (mezcal, zucchini juice, green chartreuse, zucchini syrup, and lime) and the Dairy Air Milk Punch which was quite boozy but also a little sweet. The cocktails were both a touch on the sweet side for us, so we switched to wine for the rest of the meal. However, we did notice a lot of people ordering the tableside cocktails, which we would love to try on our next visit. These are classic cocktails like a Manhattan, martini, negroni, old fashioned, or sazerac prepared and served from a beautiful tableside cart.
The food menu was split up into small plates and entrees, with the small plates being pretty substantial and shareable. After seeing several octopus plates coming out of the kitchen with the tentacles dramatically twirled and standing upright on the plate, we knew we had to try this dish to start.
The octopus was served with a roasted red pepper spuma, crispy leeks, napa cabbage wasabi slaw, and chorizo sausage. The texture of the octopus was so amazing – very crispy on the outside and super tender inside- that we had to ask our server for details on how it was prepared. He told us it was a three-step process where it was first braised, then put on the plancha, and then finally flash-fried. All that effort was certainly worth it! The zingy slaw was a nice complement; every so often we got a hit of pungent wasabi which was delicious.
Another complimentary bite appeared next, a house-made puff pastry bite topped with crispy leeks and a ratatouille, served on a tomato jam. The pastry was nice and crispy, and the tomato flavor permeated each bite.
A bread course soon followed, which delighted my carb-loving heart. There was a focaccia which was sliced thin and had a little bit of a weird texture, but the house-made sourdough rye rolls were perfection. They were slightly sweet, a little nutty, and had a depth of flavor from the sourdough. Served hot out of the oven, I could have eaten a whole basket of these and made a meal out of them. The bread was served with house-smoked salt, olive oil, and koji seaweed butter that was floral and delicious.
As we progressed to our main courses we ordered wine by the glass- an Australian Pinot Noir from Adelaide Hills, and a delightful Northern Rhone Syrah.
We had such a hard time deciding on dinner entrees – all of the house-made pastas sounded amazing, as did the koji fried chicken, and a lot of other meat dishes that you don't see too often on menus (duck, quail, and lamb to name a few!). With our server's help, we settled on the forest mushroom ravioli and the dry-aged duck.
The dry-aged duck was served with a sweet potato-duck confit hash, fermented pepper jam, red wine reduction, and kimchi. This was a monster plate with duck three ways – a leg, a breast, and confit. While the leg was a little chewy, the breast was succulent and cooked perfectly. The duck confit was made into a hash with cubed sweet potatoes for a hit of sweetness to counteract the saltiness of the duck confit.
The forest mushroom ravioli was a beautifully plated dish with a huge portion size. Three large house-made ravioli were served with tomato water, crispy brussels sprouts, koji seared mushrooms, ricotta salata, sunflower seeds, and carrot crème. Edible flowers garnished the plate and almost made the dish too pretty to eat.
The ravioli were stuffed with a creamy, cheesy mushroom filling that was perfect on its own, but there were lots of other accents on the plate. My favorites were the textures brought by the crispy leaves of roasted brussels sprouts and the crunchy sunflower seeds, and the pungent salty hit of ricotta salata. The carrot creme served as the sort of sauce to tie the whole thing together. It was mild with just a hint of sweetness. And of course, a koji-seared mushroom presented on top sealed the deal. It was fried crispy with over-the-top umami.
For dessert, Spork offers a three-course mini tasting menu which on our visit included a profiterole, a chocolate umami bombe, and a mango/strawberry/vanilla bombe. Unfortunately, two of the three courses contained nuts and couldn't be modified for my allergy, so we weren't able to experience the dessert tasting menu (which was the only letdown of the meal).
Instead, we got the only other dessert available, an affogatto with vanilla ice cream and house-made honeycomb candy. The ice cream was creamy and the honeycomb was crunchy and caramelized, a great foil to the bitter espresso. The dessert also paired nicely with our final splurge of the evening, a pour of 2000 Boal Madeira that was excellent.
We can't say enough good things about the experience at Spork – the complimentary bites throughout the meal make you feel like you're dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant, with the bonus that the menu is a la carte so you can order exactly what you want. Of course, that type of experience comes at a price, but it's one we'll gladly pay for the quality and deliciousness of food served here. Spork is truly one of the finest restaurants in Pittsburgh.
Spork is located at 5430 Penn Avenue at the corners of Bloomfield, Garfield, and Friendship.