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PITTSBURGH CITY PAPER 08.26/09.02.2015

On the RoCKs

{BY CELINE ROBERTS}

ALL ABOARD Bloomfield’s new Station offers its own twist on cocktails

The bar at Station {PHOTO BY CELINE ROBERTS}

TACO TUESDAY

we wished for more. Spicy tuna and snapper, cucumber and avocado, tobiko and jalapeño, tempura crunch and gochujong sauce: To say there was a lot to this roll would be an understatement. But each ingredient was judiciously applied and cleverly balanced against contrasting components, as with the briny pop of the fish eggs against the vegetal spice of the paper-thin pepper slices, or the intense, fermented Korean condiment against the background crunch of the tempura. This was a rare big roll that worked just as well as the smaller, simpler sushibar classics. Pan also does excellent work on the grill. Salmon with seaweed salad and pad Thai sauce was perfect, with a succulent, translucent interior and a pale pink and lightly charred exterior; the tamarindinflected sauce (which we ordered on the side) was superfluous. Kurobota pork belly, from heritage Berkshire hogs — started as a Sichuanstyle braise, but, finished with the grill — took on a thin but intensely flavored layer of char that wonderfully counterbalanced the rich interior. (Although, truthfully, it was less rich than we expected from braised belly.) But if the belly was missing richness, the bed on which it was laid was missing flavor almost entirely. We expected a purée of carrots, Japanese yam and ginger to offer an interplay of soft sweetness and lively zing, but instead it was more like mashed potatoes. Blandness also kept the Chang Mai cauliflower from living up to its potential. Thai aromatic rice, roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, crispy tofu, coconut and red curry sauce: It sounded like a vegetarian delight, packed with complex flavors and textures. But the tofu was unpleasantly mealy, the vegetables noticeably sulphurous, and neither the curry nor the meager single wedge of lime served with this dish packed enough heft to tip the balance. Shaved pork cheeks made an outstanding component of a dish that was like, but unlike, pad Thai. The tangy lime element was muted, and the crunch of bean sprouts was absent. But the pork cheeks were extraordinarily tender and smoky, presumably from wok hei (“breath of the wok”), the distinct flavor imparted when food flies above the rim of the wok and is briefly exposed directly to the high flame. Rare is the restaurant where you can’t go wrong with anything you order. Pan may not rise to this elusive height, but you are likely to find a favorite dish you’ll come back for, and sushi lovers, especially, should take note.

On Aug. 1, Station opened its doors in the Bloomfield space once occupied by longtime local haunt D’Amico’s. An olive-oilcured steel bar-top made by John Walter of Iron Eden sits just below the centuryold, polished-wood backbar. It’s a perfect reflection of the establishment’s desire to appeal to all comers: New meets antique. Bar manager Chris Matrozza, formerly of Grit & Grace and 1947 Tavern, describes the space as “a transient place to meet other people with a train-station type of atmosphere.” The large front barroom certainly has the space for comings and goings, already hosting soon-to-be regulars and, recently, a Magic the Gatheringthemed birthday party for chef Keith Fuller of Root 174. Clearly, this is a place that likes to have fun. The beverage program also offers range, from canned beers and drafts to a wine list curated by Kris Lichtenberger, Level 1 sommelier at Altius. A small selection of carefully constructed cocktails completes the tableau. Matrozza also wants to provide a culinary take on the latter aspect. Using Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s tome The Flavor Bible, Matrozza delves into flavor trinities and riffs on classics. Thus cocktails like the Zihuatanejo, based on the profile of strawberry, almond and cream cheese, results in a stylized flip, with the egg white standing in for the creamy component. Each cocktail went through many taste tests to eliminate redundancy and keep a balance throughout the program. While a few patrons have asked that the cocktail list be expanded, Matrozza is adamant about maintaining quality over quantity. Cocktails have no more than four or five ingredients each, and syrups, shrubs and infusions are made in-house. He hopes that this focus will translate into a strong base from which he and his bartenders can learn and build. Do expect a happy hour and an expanded collection of amari and vermouths “because Little Italy,” says Matrozza. “First, though, we need to get numbers under our belt.” CELINE@PGHCITYPAPER.COM

4744 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. 412251-0540 or www.stationpgh.com

Profile for Pittsburgh City Paper

August 26, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 34

August 26, 2015  

Pittsburgh City Paper Volume 25 Issue 34