Last week, my girlfriend and I took a much needed vacation away from Los Angeles to visit our good friends Bill and Hayley of The Food Lovers’ Primal Palate in Pittsburgh, PA. We spent an entire week there relaxing, eating amazing food, and for me and Bill, a couple of mornings of fishing. We even got a chance to sneak in a quick appointment with their awesome chiropractor Dr Scott Mills.
On one of our first nights in Pittsburgh, we went to one of the best sushi places in the city called Fukuda. Hayley’s sister, Caito is a sushi chef there so we were able to not only make sure all our food was gluten free (most soy sauces contain wheat) but we also got the royal treatment and a lesson in authentic sushi. It was amazing.
The menu at Fukuda was incredible. They had a wide variety of fresh fish that I hadn’t had before…at least as sushi. Caito explained that they get their fish straight from the fishermen who sell their catch at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Evidently, the Tsukiji Market is the largest fish market in the world and the fish Fukuda sources from them comes straight from the fishermen before they even take their catch to market.
It was incredible to watch Caito work. I’ve been to plenty of sushi places and sat right at the bar but this was an entirely different experience altogether. While she worked, she would explain what she was doing and what fish she was working on. Above she is slicing some of the most delicious o-toro tuna belly I’ve ever had.
The belly is the highest quality not to mention a very delicious part of the fish. Not only did we get o-toro belly, but the salmon we were served also came from the belly. I’ve never had salmon belly before but let me tell you, it was the best salmon I’d ever had sushi or not.
Caito also made wasabi paste directly from the biggest wasabi root I had ever seen. Real wasabi paste is made from the wasabi root and ground on a shark skin grinder. I was super excited to see this in person, before that I had only seen it done on Iron Chef America when Iron Chef Morimoto uses one. This stuff is way better than the powder that is used in most places, and much more potent. A little goes a long way with the real stuff for sure.
Caito explained that the torch wasn’t to cook the fish but used just enough to bring the fish up to the same temperature as the rice for a more complete flavor, and it made for an awesome picture! Here she is torching some flathead and grouper for us.
She also told us that the typical way to eat nigiri sushi is to actually have the fish touch your tongue first so you can appreciate the delicate yet intricate flavors. I definitely noticed a difference and I will most likely eat sushi this way from now on.
We didn’t just eat sushi either. We had some amazing grilled food as well like scallions, shiitake mushrooms and this amazing grilled salmon fillet. But the best thing of the night that we had, was the grilled King Salmon Head.
The head contains some of the most delicious and nutrient dense parts of the fish. Every part of it is edible with the exception of the teeth and bones (the gills had already been removed before cooking). There’s really no delicate way to eat this so we all just dug in with our hands…it was definitely a primal feeling. This place not only is the best sushi I’ve ever had, but it easily ranks in the top 5 of my all time meals.
We also spent an afternoon walking around downtown Pittsburgh near PNC Park and on the riverfront.
My girlfriend and I are huge baseball fans and unfortunately the Pirates weren’t in town so we didn’t get a chance to catch a game. The outside of the park is beautiful and it’s right on the river so we walked right by it. Outside they have a statue of the late Pirates’ great Roberto Clemente. It’s always awe inspiring for me to visit different ballparks and see the the history they display.
It was super hot that day and we all took Bill and Hayley’s dog Charlie Dickens downtown with us so we stopped in the shade to cool off for a bit.
On Saturday night we had reservations for the Chef’s Table at Cure, one of the top new restaurants in the city. I have never sat at the Chef’s table in ANY restaurant so I was beyond excited to experience this. One thing I noticed was Cure has high end dining experience in a small and rustic sort of environment. The entire place could only hold maybe 35-40 people at any given time.
The menu was amazing. It had all kinds of different meats and even a few veggies I had never heard of but I guess are quite popular (at least in the Pittsburgh area) like garlic scapes. Which I now see why they are popular…they have the garlic flavor but aren’t overwhelmingly garlicky.
I guess they are known for their charcuterie (with a name like Cure how could they not?) so we got the big order to feed the four of us. It definitely disappoint. Above is the picture of the charcuterie plate in its entirety. It was so good and included items like venison sausage, duck, italian sausage, sopressata and many more.
We were so close to the action all night. This was the view from our table. So amazing to watch a professional kitchen in action. There were 4 chefs crammed into this tiny kitchen and they all functioned like a well oiled machine. It was impressive.
This was my view all night. I sat right next to the
executive chef expediter (the one with the beard) while he plated amazing looking food.
All the plates came out beautiful. Above is what my girlfriend got, a squab breast with duck confit and apricot with those garlic scapes as well. I had never eaten squab before and I must say, from the one bite I was able to steal, I really like it. It’s one of the few birds you can cook medium rare which is awesome.
After the meal, we were taken to Mount Washington which overlooks the city skyline from across the river. It really is a beautiful view.
We got there just in time for me to snap a couple of shots of the skyline and Bill and Hayley with Suzanne (my girlfriend) before it got too dark. I really like the skyline of Pittsburgh. It’s a really beautiful city for sure.
We were really sad to leave. The week really flew by and we had way too much fun. Good thing we’re heading back at the end of August for Bill and Hayley’s wedding or it would have been harder to leave!
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All photos from Cure with the exception of the last two were taken by Bill Staley****