Washington's Landing is one of Pittsburgh's proudest symbols of its ability to turn decades of industrial pollution into, if not gold, then the next best thing: very valuable real estate. Formerly a meat-rendering yard known as Herr's Island, this elongated football of land in the Allegheny River was scrubbed clean of toxic waste, rechristened with a name that would make a Daughter of the American Revolution smile, and planted with tasteful neo-traditional townhouses set among manicured greens, tranquil walking paths and suburban-smooth roads. The 10-year-old neighborhood has none of the grit and patina of Pittsburgh's genuinely historic quarters, and that is the point, after all. Washington's Landing is Pittsburgh's offering to people who, without these amenities, might not make their homes in the city at all.
But one amenity Washington's Landing lacked was a decent restaurant. Its early residents might have had boat-docking facilities and skyline views of Downtown, but if they wanted to leave their cars in their garages and actually stroll, like city folk, to their neighborhood eatery, there was Troll's, which was under a bridge but did have outdoor seating overlooking the river. That place has been succeeded by Redfin Blues, which offers the same beachy, beer-on-the dock atmosphere and some tasty culinary offerings.
While the bar-and-grill-style menu isn't dominated by seafood, the waterside atmosphere put us on the lookout for shellfish. An appetizer of shrimp and scallops on the half-shell fit the bill. It came served in eight perfect little scallop shells, each topped with a crustacean and a mollusk apiece, then broiled with herbed boursin cheese. A bed of sea salt made for an appropriately distinctive presentation. The firm shrimp tended to dominate the tender scallops, but the tart lemon and creamy boursin made for a sophisticated balance of flavors that boded well for the rest of our meal.
We also ordered calamari, no longer an exotic dish on these shores. Redfin's was meaty and extraordinarily tender within its crispy breading, and while the squid lacked a strong flavor of its own, its presence wasn't obscured by the deep-frying either. Angelique found the Caribbean dipping sauce too sweet, but Jason thought the citrus-fruitiness was balanced by the piquancy of red chilis.
Broadening his horizons, Jason rounded out his surf with some turf in the form of filet mignon. Truthfully, it wasn't the handsomest cut of steak he's seen, but it was expertly seared, with a lightly crusted exterior enclosing tender, rare meat inside. The sweet half-pound South African lobster tail provided yet more contrast, even if its accompanying butter thickened unnervingly. The menu promised garlic mashed potatoes, but the kitchen substituted white rice the night we were there. This was a disappointment, as the rice added little but starch to the dish, which could have benefited from a distinctive third flavor.
Though a fajita sizzling aromatically on a neighboring table briefly called her name, Angelique stayed firmly in the seafood camp with her entree of snapper in crab buerre blanc sauce. The fish was beautifully grilled, resulting in a delicately browned crust, and blanketed with lump crabmeat accompanied by capers in a rich, silky sauce. Here a bed of fluffy white rice served admirably to sop up the excess buerre blanc. A side of sautéed vegetables still boasted a gleam of freshness.
At Redfin Blues, the privilege of eating overlooking the water is accompanied by food that is thoughtfully prepared, attractively presented and eagerly consumed. Whether you arrive by foot, by boat or by car, Redfin Blues has just the sort of nautical flavor that can make a day on the three rivers feel more like a day at the beach.
Jason: 3 stars
Angelique: 3.5 stars