Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blackened Ahi Tuna- Jerome Bettis Grille 36, Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh has come a long way from it's origins as a dingy steel town. In recent years it has been booming- many large companies have been moving in, and the downtown area is built up, and has an abundance of jobs available. The city is built densely, but does not feel crowded or dirty in comparison to the much bigger cities of the East Coast, such as New York. As an up and coming city, Pittsburgh has, naturally become the home to a large number of restaurants. Pittsburgh is also a city with a love for professional sports that rivals that of New York- the downtown area features three major sports venues all within walking distance of each other. With that in mind, paying a visit  to a sports-themed restaurant seemed a natural choice.

Jerome Bettis Grille 36 is named for football legend Jerome "The Bus" Bettis. As such, the menu features big, bold flavors, and a few over-the-top sized portions. There were some interesting novelty selections, such as the "ultimate mac and cheese" or the "soon to be famous deep fried hamburger" - as well as a fair number of more high-brow choices, such as mine- the Blackened Ahi Tuna.

To wash it down, the menu features an interesting selection of beers, both local and otherwise- so I went with a bottle of Pennsylvania's Erie Railbender Ale- which turned out to be a somewhat mild ale with interesting sour notes. It wasn't the best ale ever, but it was good enough for the day.

Yes, this is the Baseball Stadium in Pittsburgh, the football arena would've been a better match for this article, but PNC park was on the way, so that's the photo you get!
My entree was a large slab of good-quality ahi tuna, seared in a blend of spices. The tuna was served on a bed of rice, with sauteed mixed vegetables (mostly squash). The unusual thing about it was the sauce- a light caramel sauce. I was worried that this would turn out to be a poor match, but I was surprised to find that the sauce was toned down enough that it was not cloyingly sweet, so it balanced well against the heat of the spices without covering up the flavor of the tuna itself. The spice rub starts off mild, but seems to gradually increase in heat- so through out the meal I experienced a range of balance between sweet and spicy, making it an interesting touch. The one part of this dish I would take points off for was the fact that I prefer my tuna to be more on the rare side. It was still pink through the middle, still flavorful and juicy, so I can't call it overcooked- just cooked a little past my preference (seared on the outside, almost raw on the inside).

The overall food quality was high for the moderate price level, I would rank it high against your average chain restaurant, and closer to average for a more high-end place. It has a fun, casual, atmosphere that makes it a good place to stop for some good food and drink and to watch the game- I can see it being popular for the after-work crowd, or the "on the way to the game" crowd.

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