Friday, November 04, 2005

Isabela's on Grandview - a hot, slow and overpriced disappointment

When we were in Pittsburgh last Saturday night we dined at Isabela's on Grandview up on Mt. Washington where you can get the great views of Pittsburgh.

The view was terrific, everything else fell somewhat short of expectations.

The restaurant was hot. It was so warm that we were sweating and it detracted from the dining experience. We were told that is was because of the kitchen. Am I to assume that the restaurant is always hot?

The service was slow. These restaurants on Mt. Washington are always crowded on the weekend, but we had an 8:40pm reservation, the menu is prix fixe, and the restaurant has been there for many years so any issues with service should have been worked out a long time ago. The slowness of service was highlighted even further by mismatched service. My fiance received her wine immediately, mine arrived after the first course. They finally coordinated the courses correctly but it took forever to get the next one after the completion of each. I don't think the pace was to enhance a relaxed atmosphere since the server kept apologizing for the delay in service.

The meal was expensive. How expensive? It was the most expensive dinner that I have ever taken my fiance to and we have dined in New York, Philadelphia, London, and Edinburgh. I don't mind so much that it was expensive, but the cost was out of proportion to the quality of the experience. I expected some premium for the view, which was fantastic. But, even taking that into account the price did not match the value.

The food was good. It wasn't the best contemporary cuisine that I have had. The first course was an Amuse Bouche - some pate on a Carr's water cracker. I can make that at home, I even use Carr's water crackers. The rest of the courses were good quality but not outstanding in originality or presentation. The food isn't really this issue, it was fine, but was overshadowed by the heat, the slow service, and was shockingly inadequate for the price.

I guess we had high expectations based on the website and reviews, and we should have noticed that the reviews are from a few years back. If you want a nice view while dining in Pittsburgh, it can be had for less at any of the other restaurants up on Mt. Washington. If you are looking for a place to eat fine food in Pittsburgh, I suggest you skip Isabela's, and look elsewhere.


Anonymous said...

I agree (very hot, expensive and out of proportion) almost completely, and would like to add that if you're looking for an intimate evening, this is not the place to be. Other customers were extremely loud and the place felt very packed. I could barely converse with my girlfriend. I seriously couldn't wait to get the bill and split. Where I disagree is the service was at a good pace for me, meals came steadily and didn't feel I was waiting.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. This restaurant is one of a kind. The view is great, the service was perfect and the food was perhaps the best food I have ever had in this city or elswhere. OK, the seats are not real comfortable and it did seem noisy at times but all things considered my evening at Isabela was a wonderful experience.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, things must have changed since the writer's visit in 2005. The food is excellent and the service was outstanding! The cost is not high considering you are served a seven-course meal. At $65 a person, that is quite a deal compared to restaurants in other cities. A menu of this kind in a place like New York or Las Vegas would be at least $95 per person. This is not a restaurant for people looking to eat fast and get out or who are trying to eat an "inexpensive" meal. It is about an hour and a half experience, but at an establishment of this kind, who wants to be rushed?