Thursday, July 24, 2008

Girls' Night Out: Pangea

736 Bellafonte St
Pittsburgh, PA 15232

Last night, the ladies and I went out on the town. Since I'm moving next week and am feeling the stress of packing, I voted we have dinner out instead of cooking. Ariel suggested we check out Pangea, a new tapas restaurant in Shadyside.

The ambience of the restaurant is incredible: soft and yellow, helping me feel very relaxed, as though I were dining outdoors during a lazy sunset. Also, though there may have been some music playing softly, I don't remember it, which means that it was at the perfect volume. I prefer to focus on the company and conversation when I'm out with the girls! The picture of the interior here is from the Pangea website, and the lighting in the photo does some justice to the lighting in the restaurant.

We each ordered a glass of wine from the menu. Pangea offers wine flights of three 2-oz. servings each, each with a theme ($12-14). I decided just to have a glass, as I'm operating under a rather tight budget. I probably should have foregone the wine completely, but I drink wine so seldom these days that I decided to splurge. The least expensive wine by the glass is $9 and ranges up to $14. I opted for a Viognier ($9), which turned out to be delicious. It was sweet, with no acidity at all, but remained uncloying with hints of honey and apricot and the classic oily mouthfeel of a Viognier.

The girls and I decided to share the Hummus tapas flight ($11), which consisted of three tasty hummuses (Gorgonzola and chive with toasted pine nuts, artichoke and feta with Kalamata olives, and Sweet Red Pepper with roasted shallot) served with warm, seasoned pita wedges. I wasn't wild about the pita wedges paired with the hummus, since the seasonings clashed with the intense flavors of two of the hummuses. However, the hummus was excellent. There weren't enough pita wedges to go around, however, and sadly, the remaining hummus was cleared from our table before we could lick the platters clean.

I ordered a Scallop Trio flight ($16), consisting of a tempura-style fried scallop, a scallop ceviche, and a seared scallop. In other words, I paid $16 for 3 scallops. While the scallop dishes were very tasty and left me wanting more (especially of the ceviche), I do have a complaint about the price for obvious reasons.

Though the restaurant claims to be a tapas restaurant, I felt that perhaps they missed the mark. Yes, tapas are generally smaller portions; but they are also supposed to be shared. The tapas flights, for the most part, consisted of three very different items following a theme (e.g., my scallop trio), and could not easily be shared without divvying up those individual items.

I have almost nothing negative to say about anything else at Pangea. I truly enjoyed my dining experience. The food was delicious, if a bit scant in amount for the price; our server was charming without being overbearing (he even brought us a complementary dish of Potatoes Lyonaisse, which was quite tasty), and didn't even raise an eyebrow when we asked to split the check four ways; and, of course, the conversation was colorful, with nary a dull moment.

However, I probably will not go back to Pangea because I know I can get even more excellent tapas and wines at Ibiza. I could have eaten (and drunk) twice as much for the price I paid at Pangea. (By the way, I have just realized I never reviewed Ibiza on my blog, though I have reviewed its sister restaurant, Mallorca; this is a situation which I must soon remedy because the whole world needs to know about Ibiza!).

So, the verdict on Pangea is really based on your mind-over-money mentality, I suppose. If your eating experience is based solely on the quality of the food and money is not a concern, give Pangea a try: you probably won't be disappointed. However, if you are value-driven and pinching your pennies, you'd be better off eating somewhere else.