If you haven’t yet heard, there is a new restaurant on the block that offers a fresh, unique concept to the Pittsburgh culinary scene. This restaurant, Christian James, is named after a fictional traveler whose worldwide adventures inspire the menu. Focusing on international comfort food and boutique wine producers, Christian James is more than a restaurant – it is a dining experience.
The head chef of this restaurant is Kimberley Ashlee, of Kimberley Ashlee Catering and Station Square restaurant Terrene. She along with her partner and sommelier, Joshua Haugh, have curated a menu and wine list that is full of flavor and pairs beautifully with one another. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Christian James is the perfect stop for a quick breakfast bite as a guest of the Joinery Hotel, a downtown lunch meeting, or a gathering of friends for dinner and drinks.
We had the opportunity to visit Christian James for an exclusive dining experience and wine tasting to sample some of their selections. Everything was incredible and truly encompassed the concept of international comfort food. The dining experience began with a light, citrus-forward crabmeat amuse bouche. This bite was followed by family-style appetizers including the Shishito Peppers with beer cheese, Charcuterie, and Crispy Pork. The Crispy Pork is one of the menu items that stood out to us. As a Filipino-style dish, the crispy pork belly combines perfectly with the spicy vinegar dipping sauce and the atchara. Filipino atchara is traditionally a pickled unripe papaya that pairs perfectly with pork, as it did with this appetizer. Another stand-out appetizer was the Montreal-style Poutine. Topped with cheese curds and Guinness gravy, this is the perfect sharable bite.
Before the main course, a palette cleanser was offered to prepare for the entree. It was a tough decision when deciding on an entree due to the variety of options. Some of the flavorful highlights of the entree list included a Chicken Mole (braised chicken, mole with Mexican chocolate, and mixed roasted chili peppers), Goat Vindaloo (marinated and braised goat, curry, mild spices, and jasmine rice), and the Diver Scallops (served with mushroom risotto and garnished with dried beets and parmesan tuile). The array of flavors in just those three entrees is something you don’t see everywhere. That is what sets Christian James apart.
The presentation of each meal is something special as well. The 8 oz Hanger Steak, served with red wine demi, chimichurri, bearnaise herb-roasted fingerling potatoes, and sauteed mushrooms, is plated tableside. A pot will come out to your table and the server will plate the steak from its cooking vessel filled with herbs and spices, right onto your plate. It is details like this that offer a full experience rather than just a meal.
When it’s time for dessert, we recommend everyone in your party order something different so you can try everything! The Tableside S’mores Tart arrives and is torched in the cast iron skillet right in front of you, similar to the tableside service of the hanger steak entree. Christian James ensures everything arrives fresh and thoughtfully plated. Another dessert that cannot be passed up is the trio of Profiteroles. Depending on what flavors are baked that day, the selection will vary.
One item on the dessert menu that might not seem like a choice as obvious as the Tableside S’mores Tart is the Ube Panna Cotta. A lot of folks might not be familiar with ube, but we recently have been hearing more and more about this unique flavor. Ube is a sweet purple yam that originated in the Philippines, making it the perfect ingredient for an internationally-inspired dessert. The Ube Panna Cotta is a must-try, trust us.
Overall, the experience was fantastic! We tried four different wines paired with the meal (two reds and two whites) and spoke with Josh Haugh, the sommelier about each of them. With decades in food and beverage service, Haugh is a world of knowledge. If wine is something you take a particular liking to, consider attending one of Christian James’s monthly wine events. Taste wine from around the world in the comfort of this gorgeous Pittsburgh restaurant complete with a stunning moss world map on their feature wall.
We would be remiss if we did not also mention the delicious cocktails available while dining in, or at the upstairs bar of the restaurant. Christian’s cocktail list is made up of six feature cocktails. You will find the millennial favorite, Chocolate Espresso Martini on the list as well as sangria and a scotch and bourbon-based drink that comes as an experience. It is titled The Midnight Fog. You’ll have to visit yourself to see what it is all about.
Whether it is a quick bite as a guest of the Joinery Hotel, a drink after a day of work, or a full dinner, Christian James is here to wow you. With exceptional skill in the food and beverage industry and a commitment to the experience, Christian James is your next restaurant destination.This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.