Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sat. 5-9:30 p.m. Closed Sunday.
Prices: Appetizers, salads, soups $4.95-12.95; pasta $12.95-19.95; entrees $16.95-24.95
Fare: American steakhouse and upscale Italian
Atmosphere: Cool, cushy, clubby
Liquor: Full bar
Until recently, the pinnacle of Pittsburgh dining -- literally -- was the Top of the Triangle. High atop the 64-story USX Tower (as it was known at the time), this was the only restaurant in the city that actually looked down on the famous dining rooms of Mount Washington. The food was on a par with the view, matching the contenders at the top of the incline with gourmet preparations and special-occasion prices.
But times change, and a few years ago, the building's management contrived a new agenda for the top floor and moved the building's dining amenity downstairs. In a large space at the lobby level, there was briefly a steakhouse run by an out-of-town chain. Now, there is Café Euro, an outpost of Ann and Ed Dunlap's local empire of fine restaurants, which also includes Mount Washington's Le Mont.
Café Euro has a more a contemporary feel than the Dunlaps' other locations. Its interior, designed in collaboration with Ann Dunlap herself, has a deep, dark color scheme, all walnut-stained woods with cool cobalt blue, olive green and plummy purple accents. But any hint of moodiness is offset by shimmering opalescent finishes and the generous use of glass to capture and refract existing light. Art glass glimmers in geometric, textured screens dividing the cavernous space, in a collection of colored vases shelved on a wall, and in overblown custom chandeliers that look like giant flowers blooming from above. The overall effect, while certainly not white-tablecloth-formal, sets off business suits and strapless dresses to equally sumptuous effect.
Despite the name of the place, the menu is classic all-American fancy-restaurant fare, dominated by steaks and familiar -- not to say dull -- pastas. We quickly settled on an appetizer of seared diver sea scallops. This was unusually prepared, in that the plump scallops had been halved, resulting in a dozen silver-dollar-sized pucks drizzled with a balsamic reduction and served over a bed of wilted young greens. The presentation was lovely and the scallops sweet and succulent. Unfortunately, slicing them had resulted in pieces too thin to develop a dark, seared crust that might provide better contrast with the syrupy reduction and mild greens.
Field greens were abundant in Angelique's salad, which was the size of a large lunch portion. It arrived in a broad soup bowl topped with carrot grated into whimsically long, spaghetti-like shoestrings and plenty of superbly tangy, creamy Point Reyes bleu cheese.
In a beefy mood and faced with a variety of steak options, Jason was taken in by the garlicky promise of filet mignon topped with shrimp scampi. The steak was beautifully seared, and the interior was cooked just as he had requested. However, the butter and oil that topped the steak and its three shrimp were sorely lacking the strong, distinctive flavor of scampi. The shrimp themselves had some hint of it, but not nearly enough to stand up to the heartiness of a three-inch-thick filet. Asparagus and smashed potatoes, the respective vegetable and starch of the day, were similarly competent but underwhelming.
Angelique ordered the most distinctive-sounding pasta on the menu, Harry's Bar, consisting of pennette (little penne) in pomodoro sauce enhanced with shredded spinach and pine nuts. While she loved these additions to the basic sauce of tomatoes, garlic olive oil and herbs, she would have subtracted the sun-dried tomatoes, which lent a distracting chewiness to many bites and an unwelcome candy-sweetness to the entire dish.
Eying the tall dessert cart, we held out hope for a special finish to the meal. Indeed, chocolate mousse cake was both dense and chocolately but still light on the tongue, a truly superlative dish.
Despite its name and modern visual appeal, Café Euro offers old-school fine dining for the conservative palate. And though it is located some distance from the thronging theatre crowd, we think it ought to find a comfortable niche smack in the thick of Grant Street's lawyers, executives and nearby hotels. For some, having filet mignon a stone's throw from the office suite is truly value added.
Jason: 3 stars
Angelique: 3 stars