Eleven was in a renovated warehouse beside the rail lines and served a seasonal menu with an accompanying large wine list. Opening in 2004 it was named because it was the 11th restaurant opened by the big Burrito Restaurant Group and it has been a launching spot for many of the best Pittsburgh chefs. It’s a striking interior, with a two-story dining area where the second floor is glass-enclosed private rooms (and a patio) and downstairs is filled with curved booths opposite straight booths that are next to the wall separating the open kitchen. The wine cellar is the glassed-in area on the second level above the middle of the space. On the opposite end of the dining area/kitchen was the large bar area that had a separate menu. Music was in the background with lighting lowered and curtains on the windows to the street. The food was quite good but there were a few service glitches that showed a lack of communication among the staff. It was a dressier crowd, many looked like expense account eaters. I would recommend the place based on the food and the lovely setting but with some reservations.
The bread service was all housemade and included focaccia, sourdough and pecan-date bread with salted butter. They were all room temperature and fairly dense with moist interiors but no crispiness on the crust. I really enjoyed the pecan-date and would have eaten another slice if it had been offered.
Fishers Island Oysters were served with mignonette and Eleven hot sauce. The medium-sized oysters were nicely cut from the shells and sitting in some salty brine. The hot sauce was too vinegar-heavy for my tastes and the mignonette was more like ketchup with a touch of habanero. Both sauces dwarfed the oyster’s flavor and so it was lemon as a garnish. They were great that way.
We split the Sweet Gem Lettuce salad that came with white asparagus, avocado, buttermilk blue cheese, tarragon, lemon and croutons. It was halved in the kitchen and brought out on separate plates. The chunks of white asparagus were a fun addition but I would have preferred a stronger bleu cheese. It was lightly dressed with the tiniest crunchy croutons and some very ripe avocado. The ingredients blended well.
Gerber Farms Chicken contained a roasted breast, braised leg risotto, greens and thyme jus. This plate, with slight variations, has been on the menu since the place opened. It was a delicious plate with moist white meat and the leg pieces worked into the delicious risotto. Tonight’s green was chard that was cooked perfectly. Chicken often sounds dull but this was a wonderful plate with lots of strong flavors and wonderful textures.
Elysian Fields Farm Lamb Osso Buco was placed on Anson Mills white corn grits, wild mushrooms, Cipollini onions, beets, basil-pine nut gremolata, topped with crispy potato and jus. The huge tender piece of lamb shank was cooked perfectly and amazing when blended with the tasty grits. The sauce, mushrooms and onions all just blended into a wonderful medley in support of the delicious lamb. It was topped with some super crispy potato strings that brought another texture into the mix and further elevated this fine plate.
The Candy Bar dessert contained chocolate mousse, pretzel cookie, soft caramel, pretzel crunch, brown butter panna cotta, chocolate peanut butter sauce, salted peanuts and roasted white chocolate. Talk about a mix of things – usually, I wouldn’t like it but this came off fairly well. The popsicle stick was coated with chocolate mousse with a caramel center. There were some crispy buttery rectangular cookies in front and behind was some darker chocolate underneath. It was too many flavors and things but they blended into fun combinations.
We had pretty much finished our main plates and were enjoying the last of the fine wine when a server clearing another table dropped a wine glass next to us. I felt the spray of the glass and found bits on the table so the poor server offered to clear our plates and glasses and bring us new. We said we were through with the food but would enjoy the wine without the fear of glass inside and she disappeared with our stuff never to return. It obviously wasn’t shared with our server who never mentioned the incident or the lack of wine replacement when he brought the bill. It was odd and so we mentioned that we’d never received our wine and he then discussed how to compensate us with his manager, which we could clearly overhear. It was such a nice meal and place and then it got weird and uncomfortable and that’s why I have reservations.
Last were coconut mango bonbons with smooth creamy centers and pretty exteriors but too heavy on the coconut for me.