Another Look at PGH: Brasserie 33 (or as I like to say Brasserie <3 <3)

October 2011

Brasserie 33 had me at “lamb shank,” and it was love at first bite.  Unfortunately, the love bordered on bittersweet and fleeting.  The lamb was a special, and the subsequent three visits dazzled diners with brand new plates on the chalkboard menu.  These subsequent visits were fine meals, comprenez-moi bien, but I had tasted the divine on that first visit, and all I could think of was the way that lamb literally fell off the bone into the rich gravy.  My longing was so extreme, I gave my phone number to the manager on my third visit after she offered to call me when the lamb returned to the menu.

Header_brasserie 33

The owner’s plans for the coveted plate happened to fall right around the time of Heather & Jess’s visit to Pittsburgh.  I would have slated Brasserie 33 for the weekend regardless.  As I said, it’s an overall fine dining experience, especially if like moi, you look for any and all excuses to experience doses of France, your adopted motherland, in your day.  My quest for the lamb continued, so I arrived at the restaurant, wide eyed and hopeful, with my two friends in tow.

The above may seem like an exaggerated passion for a plate.  It’s not.  I had declared my love of that lamb shank so exuberantly, the owner recognized me, pointed to the menu and awaited for the ensuing excitement to wash over my face.  Stars had aligned?  The universe had conspired with my personal legend?  I had put enough positivity into the world to reap the protein benefits?  Fate smiled upon me?  Whatever the cause, there were three lamb dinners left, and the owner quickly reserved one for our table.

Can’t take Jess anywhere.  She nearly burned down the entire establishment, just as I was about to find fulfillment in the form of gravy goodness.  Luckily, her accidental pyro side just made for an antique menu aesthetic.

For starters…

Blackened Sea Scallops

The blackened surface made for a sweet, almost caramelized contrast to the more savory flavors of the scallop.  Paired with the mix of cooked and fresh vegetables over pasta, the dish was simple, classic and quickly divvied.

Tartare de Boeuf  
Traditional French beef tenderloin tartare

We initially had our eyes on a different appetizer, but apparently many a diner prior to us had the same idea, so we had to pick a new option.  For the sake of comparison with our Salt of the Earth experience the night before, we selected the tartare de boeuf.  Our vote was unanimously in favor of the French experience.  The herbs simultaneously asserted their individual flavors and worked in harmony with the beef.  I did prefer the quail egg at Salt, but all in all, we were quite pleased with Brasserie 33’s version.

The Highly Anticipated Special:  Lamb Shank

I really want to leave a large, white space here to symbolize a lack of words because my experience of eating this lamb was one of few words, bordering on complete silence.  The lamb was that good!  For the wait, which was no time at all really, our waiter brought us a complimentary plate of French fries, which have a delicious way of soaking up the rich gravy.  It was well worth the multiple visits to be reunited again with this menu special.

When I say the lamb fell off the bone, I am not being proverbial.  A plastic butter knife easily could have cut through that shank.  For my obvious zeal and enthusiasm, my friends bestowed the marrow upon me, and I humbly accepted.  After ranting, raving and salivating, I should probably put in some moral disclaimer about eating lamb, but I can’t.  Someone could have sang “Mary Had A Little Lamb” to me, and I wouldn’t have heard a single note.  Call me cruel, call me insensitive, but definitely call me when this plate is on the menu board again!

There was no room for dessert, especially since we already had partaken in the new course known as appetentrée.  Zee petit frite called it quits, delicious, delicious quits.


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Heather

    C’est magnifique!

  2. Glad you finally got your lamb, and I don’t think you’re cruel at all. I would take off Shari Lewis’ hand if I was guaranteed a quality shank.

    Was that a special type of oil with the tartare? It appears you’re a fan, the best and least traditional I’ve had was at Notion. If they still have it on the menu you’ll have to try it.

    1. withthegrains

      Ha! That would definitely put an end to that song that never ends!

      Shamefully, I can’t recall the oil. I want to say it was more a tomato runoff/sauce. Contrary to my recent spike in tartare consumption, I could probably count on one hand the times I’ve had it, but I am becoming more and more of a fan. I was super excited by your suggestion of Notion because 1) I have been trying to find more and more new dining experiences and 2) the address is 314!!! Check out my other endeavor “The QT Pi(e) Project,” and you will see I have a dorky fascination with that number.


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