When Legume left the Regent Square neighborhood of Pittsburgh for a bigger space in Oakland, the chef/owner passed the baton to another chef who would put forth similar values- a focus on a changing menu of local and seasonal foods. When Keith Fuller began running with the baton, try though I did, I could not get a table at Root 174! Though a bit dismayed, I took the booked tables as a good sign and persevered!
When the stars finally aligned in favor of my reservation, the clouds also parted to let the sun shine warmly onto the sidewalk seating. Nicole and I seized the premature spring temperatures and dined al fresco. While the interior faux painting and red, silky acoustic panels (?) cried for a facelift (especially disappointing in light of the stunning website/logo design that leaves me oohing and ahhing), the exterior tables framed our experience with a delightful scene of trees and globe lights and the hum of a neighborhood enjoying the early spring weather.
Root 174 was worth the wait! Our waitress was bursting with personality and a sincere enthusiasm for the menu, which provided a few culinary curiosities! Of all my Pittsburgh fine dining experiences of late, she had the most natural delivery when describing the dishes, and there were many nuances to describe for such a concentrated menu!
At Long Last…!
Bone marrow crème brûlée, parmesan, apple gremolata, baguette
This was the most curious combination on the appetizers menu! Despite my stints in France, I haven’t experienced crème brûlée all that frequently, and savory crème brûlée? This was a delightful first! This unchartered territory was buttery with sweet hints of autumnal spices, which paired well with the tart apple gremolata. I suspect this may become one of my Root 174 staples despite my best intentions to favor “the spice of life.”
Special: Bloodline Tuna Sausage (made in house) w/ Buckwheat Soba Noodles
It seems this trip to Root 174 was a game of “never have I ever,” beginning with the crème brûlée and continuing with a seafood sausage. Never have I ever had a seafood based sausage (remember I come from a landlocked people)! I could barely wrap my head around the idea, which resulted in questions the waitress probably considered to be quite inane. Lo and behold, it’s exactly what you might expect… the texture of a sausage, altered slightly by more sizable chunks of tuna, with the taste of the ocean, and it all paired with a gingery slurp of soba noodles. My favorite part of the description was the emphasis the waitress put on the power of the kumquat in this mix. Indeed, she was right!
Fede ricotta gnocchi “carbonara”, beef tongue, peas, parmesan, egg
Our favorite of the night! I am learning more and more, there’s nothing quite like tender bites of beef tongue, especially with a sweet little punch of green peas atop a creamy sauce. The egg literally caused me to pause for a moment, to savor and to appreciate the extra flavor and creamy texture lent by the broken yolk. I’ll be hard pressed to try something new next time, knowing how good this plate is!
Chocolate Espresso Cake with Bourbon Ice Cream (?) w/ Berry Sauce
I swear the waitress said “bourbon ice cream,” and both of our eyes glimmered. We both heard her say that. Then we ate the little white mound of what we thought to be ice cream, and disappointment settled over us. Not only did it not exude the bourbon flavor we had anticipated (or any bourbon flavor whatsoever), but it didn’t even taste like ice cream! Apparently, a lack of enunciation had foiled us. That mysterious white mound tasted like wedding cake icing, and I don’t have to put an adjective before “wedding cake icing” for the message between the lines to be read clearly. The cake was lackluster, and again, it failed to deliver the titular promise of an espresso flavor.
Unfortunately, dessert was a low note on which to end, but dessert notwithstanding, Root 174 fulfilled our high expectations! I should probably start attempting to make my next reservation now! I anticipate many more meals at Root 174, but I’ll be a dash skeptical when it comes to the dessert course next time!
One more note… I will design for food!