Weekend of Tacos All Over Pittsburgh
Last weekend I managed to get tacos twice during two exciting events. First, were tacos at The Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium’s Zoobrew on Friday, while checking out the animals and sampling some beer. Second was at Pirata for a bachelorette party dinner on Saturday. This post will cover the Pirata tacos since the Pittsburgh Zoo tacos were a pleasant, but infrequent, treat there. However, the tacos at Pirata are here to stay.
For the bachelorette party, we rented a boat (led by Captain Bob) from 1-4pm and cruised around on the three rivers sipping wine cocktails, eating light ham bake sandwiches and jamming to some Justin Timberlake (the bachelorette’s favorite). Following the relaxing boat trip, we set off for our dinner reservations (which were made about a week in advance) at Pirata on 274 Forbes Avenue. One of my friends who is part of the party suggested this restaurant as she had a recent work lunch there. Pirata is Spanish for pirate which themes well with the over 200 varieties of rum and the South American, Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine.
My friends Alexis and Hillary and I arrived at Pirata a little before our 7:30pm reservation time. We were taken into a separate back room designated for large parties. The room felt intimate with dim lighting, cozy red velvet chairs and giant red curtains that closed off the space for just the two long tables.
After the entire party arrived, we all ordered drinks. I was craving something light and refreshing so I ordered the standard mojito. The mojito satisfied my cravings and was filled with large leaves of mint but I was not thrilled with the price of $10.
Next, I asked the waitress a dozen of questions regarding the tacos and empanadas. She was very informative, quick and confident with her recommendations. The Caribbean tacos here all sounded unique and included mahi mahi, Jamaican curried goat, Puerto Rican style roasted pork, Jerk chicken, skirt steak, and smoked jackfruit (on a beet-corn tortilla). I wanted to order the jerk chicken with the mango chutney and cucumber raiata, but the waitress told me that the jerk chicken was the spiciest taco on the menu (most of options were spicy). She did tell me that two most popular and favorite tacos on the menu are the mahi mahi with chipotle mayo, jalapeno, and pickled red cabbage and pernil asado (roasted pork) with salsa habenero, pea shoots, white onion and micro cilantro. I decided to go with the pernil asado but with the habenero salsa on the side.
Since there are only two tacos per order, I decided I should get an empanada as an appetizer. This was my first time ordering an empanada in over 3 years after eating them daily for 2 weeks in Argentina. So I was very excited to get my empanada fix and I was hoping that they would live up to the ones I had in South America. Here, they had Jamaican beef patty, pollo fricassee, beef picadillo (fried, the rest baked) and vegetariano empandas on the menu. I went with the Jamaican beef patty empanada.
Orders of empanadas and black bean soup arrived at the table first. The empanada was of a healthy size and came with a salsa on the side. The salsa had the consistency of crushed up strawberries. The salsa was sweet with a little kick of spice at the end. I probably used about a 1.5 tsp of salsa with the empanada. I was not disappointed! The pastry was baked which left a soft, flaky crust and was filled with savory beef in the middle. There was a perfect proportion of filling to crust as each bite had both meat and pastry. I am glad my first empanada back in the states was a winner.
Shortly after, my pernil asado tacos arrived. The roasted pork covered the majority of the single shell corn tortilla. I was pleased with the amount of meat on this one. The roasted pork was shredded in large strands with very crisp blackened edges. I first sampled the habenero salsa. No joke, this salsa tasted like a spicy orange creamsicle. I have never tasted anything like it. Although I was craving that creamsicle taste, I could barely handle the heat and added the salsa sparingly. I thought the roast was a little dry and overcooked and could use more salsa but I would need a lot of that spicy salsa to make the pork less dry. Juice from a fresh cut lime could have been a simple addition as well to help add flavor and moisture. I also discovered a good hunk of a bone in my second taco that really caught me off guard. Finally, more chopped onion and cilantro would have helped as well to add some flavor. The bean sprouts provided more of a garnish than anything else. This taco was missing something as the only bold flavor came from the unique salsa.
Other friends in the group ordered the skirt steak and mahi mahi tacos. Alexis, who ordered the skirt steak taco with garlic mojo, argula, watermelon radish sofrito and salsa de arbol stated that the steak was really good but she was not impressed with the taco overall. She thought the sauce was too garlicy and the taco was just missing another element as well, but she loved the black bean soup. Mandy (the bachlorette) and Missy had the Mahi Mahi tacos and they both said everything tasted fresh and were pleased with their choice.
All in all, I was VERY satisfied with the empanadas here. I think if I were to come back to Pirata, I would definitely try another empanada and other entres like the classic Cuban chicken and rice or one of the sandwiches that came with the awesome papas fritas that I sampled from a friend. I was not entirely impressed with the tacos here, especially for the price. If I were to spend greater than or equal to $6 per taco, I would definitely prefer to make reservations at Tako again.
Price: $12-15 for two tacos with no sides- expensive! $4 per empanada