What always surprises me about Pittsburgh is just how much variety there is in the types of restaurants: you have so many choices, from Ethiopian to Thai and French to Argentinian that you don’t even know where to start! I plan on hitting as many as I can and opening up my palate to a culinary journey right in my own city. Of course, I began that journey quite a while ago, and since then I’ve visited nearly two dozen restaurants with friends and family. This next place is only a continuation, but in my mind it’s much more exotic than your typical Italian joint or a gastro pub. That’s why I brought one of my very good friends Mary Rostom with me to enjoy the experience of Casbah, Mediterranean Kitchen and Wine Bar!
Atmosphere: The atmosphere was very cozy, especially considering how bitter cold it was outside. The walls are painted a dark brown/orange, dotted with tasteful photographs, candles, and tiny lights, creating a uniquely comforting experience for the diners. The forecourt, usually reserved for outdoor diners, was covered with an insulating tent; however, this created a weird experience for us as we entered the restaurant, as we had to travel the length of the forecourt before even being greeted by the hostess on the far side.
Service: The service was good, but again, as with many places in Pittsburgh, the hospitality seemed very rehearsed and insincere. We were also consistently missing silverware, as each course that was brought out required a different utensil that never seemed to accompany the dish as it was being served.
Quality: Overall, this was a very positive experience in terms of the quality of my meal. My tuna tartare was excellent and well paired with the accompanying bread and labneh (a type of Greek yogurt). For my main dish, I had the ricotta cavatelli, and I was absolutely blown away with how fresh everything tasted. The house-made sausage and ricotta cheese blended very well together and created a very poignant taste depending on how much of either was in every bite.
However, the most disappointing part was the dessert. I’ve never been so amazed with the appetizers and entrees of a restaurant yet at the same time so dismayed at the quality of the dessert; it was honestly quite baffling. My vanilla bean Crème brûlée was not well caramelized and far too liquid like under the surface. The macaroon placed on top was also very dry and brittle, like it had been sitting in a cupboard for a long time. It’s a shame that the dessert wasn’t as good as the main meal because other than that, everything was top-notch quality!
Price: Definitely on the pricey side, so come out to Casbah on special occasions or if your parents are in town. I also would not have paid $9 for my Crème brûlée had I known what I was getting myself into.
Translation: Overall I rather enjoyed my experience at Casbah! If the restaurant can fix some aspects on the execution side (walking the length of the forecourt with little direction, missing silverware, etc.) and improve the quality of the desserts, this place definitely has the makings of a 9 sometime down the line.
Mary’s Take: The best aspect of Casbah was definitely the food, and in particular my entrée. The double-cut pork chop was cooked to perfection and had a delicious creamy flavor to it, on account of the parmesan risotto and garlic cream sauce. As for improvements, just little things here and there, like warm bread or better lighting, would make such an impact and improve this place considerably. This is definitely a really nice restaurant, great for parents but also not too serious or romantic. Casbah has almost a rustic feel with a lot of modern trappings, but it all works well together.
Mary Rostom is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Biology and Chemistry and pursuing a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. She is from Howland Corners, Ohio but is currently studying abroad in Rome, Italy for the semester!
Casbah is a warm and intimate Mediterranean restaurant on the edge of the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. With a fine selection of food and drink and both outside and inside accommodations, Casbah is ready to deliver fine hospitality to “a wide audience.” Check out the menu and make reservations here: http://casbahpgh.com/