Last night, we ushered in the Summer 2013 Restaurant Week weekend with an early bird dinner at Up Modern Kitchen in Shadyside.
I’ll admit, I was apprehensive: number one, I just don’t do the Shadyside scene outside of yoga and Harris Grill. But number two, we’d heard such a mixed bag of reviews about Up since it took over the spot formerly held by Walnut Grille. However, since we always like to make our own opinions, we decided to make a reservation and check it out. What a pleasant surprise awaited us!
I also had to stray from the RW menu just the slightest bit because there was… wait for it….
BRAISED OCTOPUS. Ohhhhh yes. I don’t know what sort of kitchen voodoo the chefs at Up are working back there, but this was the most tender octopus I’ve ever eaten. If, like me, you can’t avoid ordering octopus after seeing it on a menu, you know that not all octopi were cooked equal. This was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It was served in a caponata sauce, which is a stew-like thing with eggplant, onions, tomatoes, spices, and seasonal vegetables. I was sold on the first bite.
I got the arugula and artichoke dip with hot pita bread. I liked the swap of the traditional spinach for arugula in this dish, and it was yummy enough that we had a few bites by fork when we ran out of pita slices. Both of these appetizers were big enough that we could evenly split them and get to try both.
I got the grilled salmon, served over a sweet potato hash with bacon onion jam and braised cabbage. Yet again, I don’t know how the chefs were doing it, but this salmon was the perfect texture. I loved the way all the flavors worked together, and the wine pairing of the 2010 Infinitus Malbec was a great match. It’s a tough call to find a wine that pairs with both a meat and fish entree, but the Malbec was a nice, medium body that was a good accent to the flavors in both entrees.
(Oh yeah. I went there.)
I’m glad we decided to check out Up, even though it meant battling Shadyside happy hour traffic. The food was really solid, our server Adam was awesome, and the price was right. I’d go back just for octopus and dessert, but they also have some truffle aioli French fries on the menu that I think I’m going to have to sample soon. Pleasant surprises are the best, especially when it comes to good dinner!