649 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA | Directions 1522240.443103 -80.001224
Neighborhoods: Downtown (Central Business District)
Very disappointed – Seven of us went to dinner on a recent Saturday night and were very disappointed. For prices on this level we did not expect to get frozen carrots as part of the side vegetables. The menu said that a vegetarian meal was available, so two of us ordered it. It turned out to be the same sad side vegetable with two slabs of what we assumed was tofu in a not very interesting red sauce. The restaurant's website that day listed ravioli with local goat cheese as the vegetarian special. The restaurant is on the street level of a theater, and we understood that the staff had to get the theatergoers out in time for the show, but even after they left the service was slow. This used to be a really fine restaurant.
A Wonderful Dining Experience! – Ten of us dined last evening at Cafe Zao upon the recommendation of one of the couples. What an absolutely marvelous experience! The atmosphere is intimate with a European feel. Nice for a quiet Twosome or to dine with a small group of friends before a show. I had the quail, a succulent dish prepared better than the one I had in Canterbury, England. The clam appetizer was mouthwatering and the mashed potatoes were to die for! We will be back again - my compliments to the Chef!! The raspberry martinis were good enough to come back for after the show.
Has anyone in this restaurant ever been to Portugal? – It would be more appropriate for this restaurant to promote itself as "Bland Continental." The combination of food, service and atmosphere provide a sure cure for insomnia.
I have been to Cafe Zao several times in the last several years with family, friends and business associates, and there has never been a disappointing experience. Sometimes the service was slow, but this was OK since we were not in the mood for the typically American gulp and slurp experience and we enjoyed the nice atmosphere, and conversation with low level music in the background, and comfortable chairs. The food is consistently interesting and tasty, and visually appealing. I recommend Cafe Zao, especially because it makes you feel like your not in Pittsburgh but in a cosmopolitan city. Perfect location for dinner before the theatre, but also ideal for lunch. If you like a fairly light meal with a glass of wine and a cultured atmosphere, this is the place for you.
Prix fixe worth every penny! – My fiance and I had the daily menu of the Prix Fixe promotion this past Friday. Among the very tasty courses, we had cucumber soup (great refreshment with a ting for my tongue), fig with blue cheese (delicious and fun fusion of flavors), lobster cake (the best dish of the day and the best lobster dish I've ever had), and a dulce de leche creppe that even my fiance (not a creppe enthusiast) could not resist.
After reading mixed reviews, I was quite skeptical. Nonetheless, I ended up being delightfully surprised and very satisfied. So, I give Cafe Zao a full row of stars!
Fancy setting, standard food – Cafe Zao has a nice menu and lovely banquettes, but the actual food is pretty ordinary. I asked for the most Portuguese items on the menu, and they were unusual by American standards (fried cheese, pork w/ clams) but the preparaiton just wasn't that great--not enough salt, too much cooking...
It's a great theater-district "experience" meal, but not especially delicious.
NOT WORTH IT – We arrived on a recommendation from a friend before a theater performance. The wait times were incredibly long between courses. We waited over 10 minutes just for a coffee. The appetizer, calarmi, was 3 small pieces which very unmemorable at best. Our coffees were never refilled, nor were we asked how our meal was. Only 3 Prawns came on my entree, which was weak for the hefty price. The filet mignon we ordered medium rare, came out more on the rare side. We had to ask for bread at dinner.
It was all "a miss..." – Cafe Zao falls flat on its creative edge. The Late night menu is not for you, if you are hungry. The flavourful, exquisite burst I was expecting from the Portuguese sausage dish did not come. The lamb burger was so poorly seasoned that we had to break down and ask for ketchup to rescue our taste buds. The best thing about the mussels (after we found them hiding under "reeds" of sprouts) was the garlic sauce in which they were served. I made the mistake of ordering lemonade and I am still reeling from the disdainful look of the waitress. (Note to staff: Not everyone drinks). In spite of all of the above, the cool spaciousness accented by the blue-grey walls, the plush chairs, and the music makes it a good pre-theatre scene. (P.S. The cornbread is divine!)
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