Bistro 19 – Mount Lebanon Suburb
Whenever I go to Bistro 19, I can’t help but be reminded of the second date I had with my wife. I originally found her on match.com and based on her profile and pictures, I was interested immediately and contacted her for a hopeful connection. She responded (naturally) and fortunately I was literate enough to keep her interest. She gave me her phone number about a week after that first email message and I called her later that night. It was a Friday and we both already had plans so I asked her about heading out the next evening. Still too unsure about me to go out on a limb and waste a prime dating slot, she instead agreed to meet for dinner on Sunday. I suggested Il Pizzaiolo, which was my go-to first date place, but she suggested we meet at Molly Brannigans instead.
Fast forward to Sunday, she was as beautiful as her pictures made her out to be and dinner and the accompanying dessert at Aladdin’s went well. However when I walked her to her car afterwards, I was met with a firm handshake and a noncommittal sounding agreement to “do this again”. There is a range of possible physical contact after a first date and hand-shaking is probably nestled firmly at the cold end of the spectrum between fist-bump and military salute. The romantic outlook for us was looking lukewarm at best.
Despite the job interview-like ending, we talked more on the phone the following week and she agreed on me picking her up for dinner at Bistro 19 that next Friday. Conversation throughout our delicious meal was again wonderful, and towards the end of dinner we discussed what we should do next. Our prevailing thought was to head to the Saloon for a drink or two, but she soon realized that she forgot her driver’s license. She looked quite young (and still does), and since the Saloon doormen are sticklers for identification, she then suggested we just go back to her place for drinks. Once there, the evening progressed way past handshakes* and we’ve been together ever since. I contend to this day that she pretended to “forget” her license and actually planned to end up back at her place, but she denies it.
I recently met-up with my wife and a group of friends at Bistro 19 after partaking in a work happy-hour at the Meadows Casino. I got there a few minutes late and wedged into a rounded booth along the back wall near restroom lane. The décor was wine-inspired, nice but unoriginal except for the old-fashioned tin ceiling. This must aid in acoustics because despite the restaurant being fairly crowded we were able to converse easily with no problems hearing each other. I drank a big draft** of Blue Moon Pale Moon (ABV 5.4% - Belgian Pale Ale) at the casino before I left and I really hated it so I just stuck to water the rest of the evening. Just like our first time at Bistro 19, my wife and I split the hummus appetizer which came with pita chips and three different kinds of hummus – traditional, roasted red pepper and fresh herb. The traditional was very good, with a thicker consistency and less oily after-taste than most other renditions. The fresh herb hummus had a nice bright flavor to it, very pesto-like, and was my favorite of the three. I didn’t like the roasted red pepper hummus this time or the first time I had it so at least it’s consistent. The red pepper taste is just a little chalky and doesn’t really do anything for me but waste a pita chip.
I was tempted to try the Cornish Game Hen, but our waitress was nice enough to alert our table that is wasn’t very good. It’s rare that a server is this honest, so I heeded her advice and ran towards the Crab Cakes. They came accompanied with chive mashed potatoes and baby carrots. The potatoes were alright but the carrots were exceptionally delectable. They were cooked perfectly, soft but not mushy, with a nice glaze and just enough rosemary to add flavor without overpowering the taste. The crab cakes were unfortunately less crispy than I usually like them, but the flavor of the crab meat concoction was solid. The whole grain mustard aioli that came as a topping also made for a nice alternative to tartar sauce and overall I’d give the crab cakes a 7/10***.
Dessert brought another highlight in the Pumpkin Mousse, which had the hue and silky smoothness of Billy Dee Williams. It was downright delicious, albeit a little small of a portion for my wife and I to split so next time I’ll be sure to order my own. The mousse was layered with soft shortbread, caramel and whipped cream and was right up to the edge of being too sweet without going overboard.
Final Call: Though not particularly revolutionary, the décor and entrees are done very nicely and the suburban-trendy Bistro 19 is easily one of the best restaurants in the South Hills. The food ranged from good to magnificent, though the highlights were mostly supplied by the supplementary dishes.
* I’m sure my wife will want me to clarify that the second date interactions didn’t go all the way past handshakes…..but if what occurred that night happened on a job interview, it would have been quite inappropriate.
** Don’t drink and drive…at least don’t drink more than two beers and drive. That’s my motto.
*** My top crab cake score (10/10) belongs to Mo’s Fisherman’s Wharf in Baltimore. The lowest score (1/10) was recorded when I ate one of those crab cakes they sell at the Shop ‘n Save deli counter for a dollar. I don’t think it contained any crab meat and was most likely bread crumbs and cat food mixed together.