Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Commoner Review

This is for a 2015 trip to Pittsburgh including: 

After a wonderful 2 nights at the Hotel Monaco, the GF and I had reservations for brunch at the in-house Commoner before flying back to Philly. The beautifully designed gastropub is a homage to the Steel City's industrial history, with steel beams and gold highlights throughout. It's not your typical "hotel restaurant," to be sure, as it's on par, if not exceeds other Kimpton property restaurants I've visited (think: Red Owl Tavern and Square 1682). 

The Commoner

Bringing more than 20 years of experience, Executive Chef Dennis Marron was brought in last year from D.C.'s Poste Modern Brasserie. It's clear from the dishes we tried, execution and quality are important to Chef Marron. But what sold us? The Bloody Mary bar we kept hearing about! 

Bloody Mary [$12]
Bacon-infused vodka
The Commoner - Bacon Infused Vodka

If a restaurant has its own Bloody Mary bar, there's no reason to get the standard Bloody. What does the Commoner's entail? A huge lineup for everything you need. First, you pick the type of vodka you want. The GF went with the celery-infused vodka, which had great herbaceous notes. I went with the smoky bacon-infused iteration, obviously. After you server brings the alcohol, you take a trip to the bar. 

The Commoner - Bloody Mary Bar

For toppers and mixers, they've got every hot sauce you've dreamed of including meats, cheeses, pickled everything, infused tomato juices, bacon, and yes, grilled cheese.

The Commoner - Bloody Mary Bar Creation

As you can see, I had more than just a little fun with my creation. 

Pierogi & Eggs [$12]
Sour cream hollandaise, grilled scallions 

The Commoner - Pierogi & Eggs

For the meal proper, the GF went with the pierogi and eggs, much to my delight. While the poached egg was slightly over, the sour cream hollandaise was the perfect rich and tangy balance to the starch of the creamy, well-seasoned pierogis. The dumplings were spot on and had a crisp outer shell. The grilled scallions imparted some bite and the home fries were great - well seasoned, slightly crisp, yet creamy within, with roasted red peppers and onions studded throughout. 

Bacon Beni [$13]
Crispy house-cured bacon, pork belly, house-made English muffin, onion soubise

The Commoner - Bacon Beni

I went with the bacon beni which was one of my favorite dishes of the weekend. Amazingly crisp bacon sat atop of gorgeously braised, then crisped thick-cut pork belly. The housemade muffin maintained its toasted texture with a perfectly poached egg on top.

The Commoner - Bacon Beni Innards

The soubise was the right sauce to provide some bright acidic counterbalance to each bite from the onion puree, while providing some additional heft from the rich bechamel. This dish is a must order in my mind.

Roots & Tubers [$7]
Roasted baby carrots, beets, sunchokes, parsnips, celery root puree
The Commoner - Roots & Tubers

We had plenty of starch with our mains, but when I saw the roots and tubers go out to another table, I knew I had to order this as well. A gorgeous plate of carrots, beets, sunchokes, and parsnips came atop a roasted celery root puree. The innate sweetness came out from this beautiful melange of perfectly roasted and lightly seasoned veg.

Sticky Toffee Puddings [$8]
Steamed date cake, toffee sauce, rye vanilla ice cream
The Commoner - Sticky Toffee Pudding

And with this, the kitchen sent out some sticky toffee pudding. And despite being full, we finished this with no problem - it was that good. We were sold from the house-made ice cream which was clearly not just vanilla. It had a surprisingly light bite from the whiskey, which really complemented the richness of the perfectly made cake, with the macerated portions with toffee really standing out. Rich, bitter, sweet, salty - it was all there.

So if you're in Pittsburgh, there's no reason why you shouldn't stop by the Commoner for a meal or a drink. And if you're staying at the Hotel Monaco? It should be part of your itinerary. Well-executed, and thoughtfully delicious dishes with quality ingredients await.

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