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click to enlarge Ahi tuna tower - HEATHER MULL

Location: 101 Mall Boulevard, Monroeville. 412-373-7300
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sat.-Sun. 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches $5-12; entrees $13-30
Fare: Contemporary American 
Atmosphere: Casual contemporary room without a view
Liquor: Full bar

 

On a soft summer evening when the twilight lingers almost till bedtime, what could be better than outdoor dining? If you answered "a windowless hotel restaurant with Fox News blaring from the TV at the bar," you just might be right.

We'd planned a meal in a pleasant, urban courtyard, but due to a series of unforeseen and unfortunate events, we found ourselves detoured to Monroeville. There we dined at Share, the new restaurant at the Doubletree Hotel. 

While the chill of the overzealous AC and aforementioned lack of windows removed us completely from the balmy summer evening we'd come out to enjoy, we found a lot to like on the menu. Most of it consists of "tapas," though we would call them small plates, as most had little in common, conceptually or ingredient-wise, with authentic Spanish tapas. The dishes derived from a broad array of cuisines, including American, Mexican and Asian. A lot of them were cutely renamed standards (hummus-among-us, seven wings with heat), but the descriptions perked us up, including ahi tuna not seared, but stacked with cucumber, spicy mayo and tobiko (roe); and sliders topped with chipotle remoulade, chimichurri and feta, and red peppers and blue cheese. 

The oversized platters (we guess that's why they're not called "small plates") challenged our petite table, but the portions were, as the place's name suggests, about right for sharing: enough to offer more than a nibble apiece without filling us up. The sliders themselves were serviceable (we often wonder how a dish so hard to cook properly managed to get so popular), but the toppings lived up to their enticing descriptions. The chimichurri was a bit scant, but the blue cheese and roasted red peppers were plentiful and created a satisfying interplay between beefy burger, sweet peppers and tart, tangy cheese.

The tuna -- described as a tower but, in fact, more of a mound -- was tender and supple, brightened by the diced cucumber and blaze-orange pop-rocks of tobiko atop it.  The spicy mayo enlivened not only the mineral taste of the fish, but the pool of citrusy ponzu sauce that was light enough to flavor the main ingredients without wearying the palate. Toasted sesame seeds offered a trace of nutty flavor that was just enough counterpoint.

Barbecue prawns were slathered with a smoky-sweet sauce, wrapped in salty, peppery strips of bacon, and served atop a dollop of cheesy grits. The tiniest dice of sweet red pepper we've ever seen brought a note of garden freshness that relieved the otherwise lush, deep flavors of this dish.

From the entrees, we selected steak and frites for its jazzed-up take on the bistro classic, and miso-vegetable noodle bowl for its promise of something light yet flavorful.

The steak was a modest seven ounces of Jason's favorite cut, skirt. It was well-charred and covered in chimichurri, this time enough to make an impact. The sauce was herbal and a bit spicy, but the beefy skirt steak held up well. The lemon gremolata fries were golden shoestrings with just enough of the gremolata to give them a distinctive flavor. It was enough to obviate the need for ketchup or other dip, but we thought they could have stood even more. On the side was a sizable wedge of iceberg lettuce with blue-cheese dressing, tomatoes and diced bacon. With the updated steak and fries, we'd hoped the wedge, too, would offer some creative twist, but the tried-and-true combination of flavors proved why it is just that.

The vegetable bowl aced its first test: The broad array of Asian vegetables, including snow peas, baby bok choy and spinach, were each cooked to perfection, braised somewhere between wilted and crisp, while each maintained its own flavor. The rice vermicelli noodles made an excellent foil, starchy but delicately al dente. Alas, the broth fell short. It was watery, with barely a hint of miso flavor, which should have been the earthy, umami-rich baseline of the whole dish. Without it, the noodles and vegetables had no common denominator, and the dish resembled a wet salad.

Overall, Share makes the most of its by-the-book contemporary American menu. If we could make one suggestion, it would be not to hold back on the ingredients -- chimichurri, gremolata, miso -- that make the difference between a good-enough dish and a uniquely memorable one. Now, if there were just a little terrace by the hotel pool, we could see sharing some more small plates together.

 

JR:

AB:

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