Sausalido - Bloomfield Neighborhood
My wife’s college roommate (and our maid-of-honor) was staying with us for the weekend. She had come to town for an eye doctor convention (wild times I’m sure), and her visit brought with it the opportunity for me to plan a group restaurant outing. Dr. Elizabeth resides in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, just outside of Reading, where Buca Di Beppo is the height of haute cuisine. Therefore I wanted to choose an upscale establishment that would deliver a great culinary experience not easily duplicated in Berks County. However, the place also needed to be relaxed enough for us to drink copious amounts of wine and talk loudly. Complicating matters further was the fact that I yearned to try a new restaurant. #Firstworldproblems indeed.
I feverously began to hunt through Urbanspoon for suitable recommendations. After finishing my research, I suggested Sausilido in Bloomfield along with a few other restaurants to our accompanying peeps. As it turned out, my other optometrist friend Dr. Lynn’s hairdressers’ brother owns the place and she always talks about how great it is. After discovering that serendipitous connection, I went ahead and made reservations at Sausilido through Open Table for seven people at 8:30 that Friday night. If you can’t trust your hairdresser, who can you trust?
The MOH had been to our fair city many times over the years, but never to the neighborhood known as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. Since my wife and the MOH were both surprisingly able to get ready with time to spare, we headed down to Bloomfield early to walk Liberty Avenue and explore the locale. I was expecting the eclectic urban mix of elderly residents and precocious hipsters intrinsic to the area, but unfortunately what we found were a couple of scary-looking bums* asking for change. There also must have been an internet live stream of a TV On the Radio concert occurring that evening because it was nearly impossible to spot a hipster. Disappointed in the surroundings, we decided to head back to the restaurant to see if we could be seated early. Luckily the welcoming host obliged and our other companions soon arrived thereafter.
The décor at Sausilido was modern, with an aesthetic leaning more towards unassuming than attention-grabbing. Jackson Pollock-type art prints added some visual flare, and the black chalkboard tabletops were a tasteful addition to the otherwise Spartan environment. This minimalist approach is appropriate since the dining space is diminutive and an excess of decorations would only highlight this attribute. Despite the intimate setting, I had more than enough elbow room and the place did not feel as cramped as some Urbanspoon reviews reported. I also found the noise level to be quite acceptable, but we were the largest and loudest group present that particular evening so it’s possible the other patrons felt differently.
Sausalido is BYOB, so I planned ahead and brought a bottle of my favorite wine - 7 Deadly Zins (Zinfandel - 15% ABV). Our cheerful young waiter uncorked the bottle and filled my glass as we ordered the Cauliflower Latkes and Arancini Risotto Balls for appetizers. The food arrived shortly thereafter, along with fresh bread and a splendid complementary rosemary oil and white bean mixture. I was quite excited to try the latkes, but unfortunately the accompanying Romano pecorino aioli was the dish’s highlight. I don’t take fault in the dish’s execution; it was very well prepared and looked quite majestic. I just think that roasted cauliflower isn’t nearly that scrumptious. This is especially true when prepared in a way more closely associated with yummy fried potatoes. The risotto balls were another inspired dish that reached, but ultimately fell short of greatness. The bright flavor of the English peas shone though, however the overall taste was less than thrilling. Both of the appetizers were attractive and interesting, they just weren’t delicious**. Conversely, the white bean dip delivered in every way and was both distinctive and delectable. Score one for Rosemary.
I decided on the French Cut Pork Chop for dinner, and was pleased to see a huge portion of pig delivered on my plate. It came topped with an apple cider reduction, aged cheddar and a scoop of leek-mashed potatoes on the side. Unfortunately, the medium I had ordered was closer to medium-well and the pork was a little dried-out. It was still flavorful, but less time in the heat would have meant a world of difference. Per usual, my wife made the better dinner decision by going with the Hanger Steak. She was nice enough to share a few bites and it was wonderful. Ditto for the finishing dessert of a Peppermint Patty Creme Brulée. This delightful combination of mint chocolate mouse and a perfectly crispy top layer was a nice ending to our enjoyable evening in Bloomfield.
Final Call: Though the food was a little uneven, I still had a great culinary experience at Sausilido. The host and servers were extremely pleasant and attentive, the décor attractive yet unobtrusive, and the intimate setting was cozy and comfortable. The nuanced appetizers and outstanding white bean dip were a great testament to the restaurant’s desire to create a singular dining experience. My pork was a bit overdone, but I’ve learned a long time ago that you just have to accept that your meat isn’t always going to be handled to your liking.
* My favorite bum of all-time*** is Chance Boudreaux from Hard Target. This homeless, ex-merchant seaman is not only an amazing martial artist; he also has one of the slickest mullets I’ve ever seen.
** The top of my appetizer scale is owned by the cheesy fries at Outback Steakhouse, so it’s possible my palate isn’t the best judge of culinarily complex offerings.
*** Chance Boudreaux is my favorite bum in the “homeless person” division. My favorite bum in the “buttocks” division is my wife’s bottom.