On a recent snowy evening, Ben and I made our way to Alma (corner of S Braddock and Forbes). Alma is a spot I have been eyeing up since its opening last summer.
Alma describes itself as a Pan-Latin restaurant, serving dishes from various Latin countries. The Alma website speaks of the desire to showcase the African based nuances of many traditional Latin dishes. Additionally, the owners of Alma also own Abay, a popular Ethiopian restaurant located near Penn Circle. I’ve been to Abay and definitely enjoyed the unique menu.
A call to Alma let me know that the space does not take reservations for parties under 6. When we arrived around 8PM (on a Friday), we were told there was a half hour wait. This didn’t prove to be a problem as we were able to hop over to Alma’s ‘Cantina’ space, a recent addition to the restaurant. Alma Cantina can be accessed through the restaurant or via a separate entrance on Forbes Ave. The space is pretty small (2 or 3 hightops, one table, 4-5 seats at the bar) but we snagged an open table and quickly ordered mojitos. The mojito was a great contrast to the wintery mix swirling past the windows. You can ordered a small menu in the cantina – tacos, a cuban sandwich. We ended up being seated in about twenty minutes.
The main dining space is not particularly large but is cheerful and has a casual feel. Our server had great energy and quickly informed us of the evening’s specials after being seated. Based on her recommendation, I ended up ordering a scallop special. Also, we were actually visiting during Pittsburgh Restaurant Week and so Ben opted for the $25 pri fix restaurant week menu. Regular entree prices range from the mid teens to low twenties.
Our meal opened with Ben’s arugula salad. It was well contructed and dressed with fresh ingredients, including mango and red pepper. Our mains quickly followed. My scallops were seriously amazing. They sat on a bed of pureed root vegetable and were served with avocado and a ginger sauce. Something magical was happening on that plate. The combination of flavors had Ben and I scraping every last bit of the sauce from the plate and I savored every one of the perfectly cooked scallops. So good. I actually did not end up tasting Ben’s pork – he said it was good but my scallops beat his plate for sure.
Dessert was a taste of the tres leches cake that came with Ben’s meal. I wasn’t sold on my first bite (colder and more custard-y than I expected) but I quickly changed my mind and enjoyed the almost eggy/milky texture of the cake. Now I want to make tres leches cake at home :)
I would definitely like to return to Alma. The fact that Ben and I can walk to Alma also certainly adds to its appeal. I am not sure I have been to another spot like this in Pittsburgh – a spot with upscale Latin American food. My visit makes me want to check out the other Latin-American restaurants that popped up this year in the ‘burgh (thinking of Verde and Aji Picante). Any restaurant with flavors that can transport you from the cold P-burgh winter to somewhere warmer is a favorite cold weather spot of mine.