Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.
Prices: Starters $4-11; entrees, $16-26
Fare: Contemporary continental
Atmosphere: Soft colors and candlelight
Liquor: Full Bar
The holidays are here, and so over the river and through the woods, to Mount Nebo Road we drove. But our destination, Andora, was nowhere near grandmother's house, and her dinners weren't anything like this, either.
Andora is a classic white-tablecloth restaurant whose décor -- a soft pastiche of beige, dusty rose and sage green -- seemed at first to suggest a subdued dining experience. The menu, however, is anything but bland. We generally welcome brief, restrained menus, preferring chefs who play to their strengths rather than guess all over the map at diners' preferences. But Andora's Glenn Taylor presents such a wide yet well-considered selection of complex dishes, inspired chiefly by continental themes, that ordering became a tantalizing challenge.
Ultimately, we both started with appetizers reminiscent of, but far from copies of, Pittsburgh stalwarts: fried zucchini and crab cakes. The thin planks of zucchini were rolled with a blend of three cheeses, battered, fried and served with a red-pepper-cream sauce, resulting in a harmonious whole yet retaining the distinctive textures of the tender vegetable, crisp breading and creamy cheese. And we are pleased to report that, in a land littered with crab cakes, Andora's stand out. Baked, not fried, they had a greaseless mouthfeel and breading so tender that it was almost creamy. Jumbo lumps were abundant, and a red onion-caper sauce was a clever update of the traditional tartar sauce, making a bright contrast to the rich cake.
Andora's salad list, dominated by fruit and cheese, is truly exceptional. Angelique was most intrigued by a plate featuring white peaches and bleu cheese, but upon being informed that it wasn't available, defaulted to a salad of field greens with fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, honey-toasted walnuts, prosciutto and gorgonzola -- all in a raspberry vinaigrette. This made for a sweet, salty, citrusy salad that tasted almost as luxurious as a dessert. Red onions and a twist of freshly ground black pepper kept it from being cloying.
Fruity salads are not Jason's style, but he was happy to try the bibb salad, with tender bibb lettuce, diced cucumber, tomatoes, red peppers, bacon and egg wedges. Peppercorn ranch dressing has become something of a commonplace, but Andora's was excellent, and perfectly tossed with the ingredients -- we could taste it in every bite, but never encountered the telltale pool of the heavy-handed dresser.
After a light salad, Jason was primed for a truly decadent entrée: capellini with shrimp, lobster, asparagus and wild mushrooms in a mascarpone-lobster cream sauce. What was most impressive about this dish, other than the ingredient list itself, was the interplay between the succulence of the seafood and the earthiness of the asparagus and mushrooms. Each of the main ingredients had a distinct character, texture and flavor, and none of them got lost in the thick, rich floes of sauce.
Angelique selected an entree of chicken stuffed with spicy Italian sausage. The bone-in, skin-on leg and breast were moist and delectably browned on the outside, forming a mild yet savory package for the drier sausage stuffing within. Accompanying mashed potatoes were creamy yet textured with bits of skin, and a medley of vegetables -- baby carrots, zucchini and squash -- were well cooked and salted exactly enough to bring out their natural flavors.
For our dessert, the tiramisu was as finely prepared as the meal that preceded it: ladyfingers richly soaked with liqueur, custard airy and cloudlike, and the top dusted with a lovely layer of cocoa.
With its creative menu and careful preparations, Andora occupies a place between traditional fine dining and adventurous contemporary cuisine that we would like to revisit.
Jason: 3.5 stars
Angelique: 3 stars