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Dining with Woodene Merriman

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It's a lock: Restaurant adds new patios to distinctive site and special menu

Friday, May 26, 2000

By Woodene Merriman, Post-Gazette Dining Critic

Two patios on the river bank will open this weekend at Lock 6 Landing, expanding the seating at the popular restaurant along the Ohio River at Industry. That should make it possible for more people, like us, to get prime-time dinner reservations on a Saturday night.

 
  Lock 6 Landing is located in a former power house overlooking the Ohio River in Industry. (Tony Tye, Post-Gazette)

Twice His Honor and I tried, twice the restaurant was filled. But I'm glad we persevered.

For the Pittsburgh area, Lock 6 Landing is a new and different concept. The original, 1904 power house at Lock 6 was carefully restored to house the moderate, upscale restaurant. Then chef Joseph Colantuono was brought in from Monterey Bay on Mount Washington to create a menu specializing in seafood and pastas.

It's not the same old, same old seafood and pasta, either. Some of the entrees, like chicken penne and Maryland crab cakes, are familiar, of course. But how many Pittsburgh restaurants serve ahi tataki?

It's an entree at lunch, or an appetizer at dinner, and I highly recommend it. The thick square of tuna is encrusted with herbs and grilled to your taste. The ahi, or yellowfin tuna, is served with wasabi mayonnaise, two kinds of ginger and ponzu sauce, made with soy sauce and chopped green onion, for dipping. It can be ordered rare, medium rare, etc., as you order filet mignon. Grilled rare, it's still pink inside, seared outside and cuts easily with a fork to dip into the sauce. Delicious.

The dinner menu has 11 seafood entrees, but each can also be ordered five other ways, from Alaskan grilled (with Dijon and honey glaze) to charred. We've also enjoyed the day boat scrod. The delicate fillets are sauteed with shallots, artichokes, mushrooms and tomatoes, making a colorful but not highly seasoned entree.

Another outstanding appetizer is scallops saltimbocca. The big sea scallops are wrapped in prosciutto and served in a port wine sauce; the prosciutto adds a little hammy flavor to the scallops which, thank goodness, are not overcooked. Barbecued oysters, charred with a mild barbecue dressing, sounded interesting, but I think next time I'll just have the oysters steamed in their natural juices. The barbecue sauce doesn't add much.

Pastas can be as simple as the chicken penne, which has fresh vegetables and chicken breast on the plate. Mostly, they're more creative: lemon fettuccine with calamari, two-tone angel hair with salmon and a Dijon cream sauce, and ravioli stuffed with wild mushrooms in a rose basil sauce or stuffed with roasted summer squash and served in an Alfredo sauce.

Fettuccine Neptune has shrimp, scallops and small pieces of crab, all plump and fresh-tasting, over sun-dried tomato and basil-flavored pasta. Pesto Dream was a little disappointing; the pesto-filled ravioli are covered with a cream sauce made with fresh basil, which sounded good to a pesto lover like me. But it was too cloying, too much of the same texture.

Lock 6 Landing's kitchen makes a fine she-crab soup, I've been told. But the pink, not-too-thick soup, with lots of crab and a little spice from the nutmeg and sherry, was barely warm. Lukewarm isn't good enough for even the best soup.

Still, His Honor and I have been impressed with the many things Lock 6 Landing does right. Cauliflower and broccoli as a side dish has a light honey-butter sauce. The "slaw" served as a side dish is actually an Asian slaw, with jicama, bok choy, napa cabbage, mushrooms and snow peas in the seasoned sesame oil dressing.

Order a glass of wine, and the server pours it at your table. You get to see the label, and know that it's not some nondescript wine coming from a big jug.

The wine list is long (100 or so selections), but it's being pared down, according to Maria Galiano, general manager. "We have too many chardonnays," she says. Wine prices are reasonable; a Benzinger cabernet, for example, is $22. No need for H.H. to keel over here from shock. (He did, however, look longingly at the $650 Chateau Lafite.)

Another attraction is entertainment on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. For this holiday weekend, there's even more: Fuzzy Comets tonight, Margaritaville tomorrow night; Steel Drums, Sunday, and Vincent Anthony with Kenny Blake on saxophone, Monday.

Lock 6 Landing has a pastry chef, too, a rarity around Pittsburgh. If you're in doubt when the server runs through the choices of the day, have the berry cobbler. It's a homey, old-fashioned dessert, served with ice cream. Jennifer Gebhard makes her cobbler with lots of berry filling, and just a thin crust on top.

People who choose to eat outside on the patios will have a different menu, from an appetizer of a dozen steamed shrimp to entrees of Maryland blue crabs, a half-pound hot dog, or AYCE. That's All You Can Eat of Maryland blue crab, snow crab clusters and shrimp.

Lock 6 was an Ohio River lock from 1904 to 1936. Three owners -- Anthony Tommasone, Deborah Bomberger and Robert Gearhart -- have turned it into an attractive, three-story restaurant. The bottom floor has small, private dining rooms and the rest rooms. The main dining rooms, bar and lounge on the first floor have exposed brick walls and large windows looking out over the dining patios and marina. Upstairs is the "witch's hat" private dining room.

When the dining room is filled, it's noisy. When the air conditioning is running, it can be cold. I knew it wasn't just H.H. giving me the cold chills when the man sitting next to us put on his heavy, outdoor jacket and a young girl across the room, who had arrived in a lovely spaghetti-strap dress, got out her black wool sweater. Sure, I complained, but the area where I was sitting never warmed up.

Lock 6 Landing is on Route 68 West, a little more than a mile off the Midland exit 13-B of Route 60. But diners also can arrive by boat. A new marina has been installed, along with steps going up to the restaurant.

Outdoor diners also can have a drink at a unique bar, actually an old boat floated up from New Orleans and dry-docked. The bartender works inside the boat, and customers sit around the deck.

Lock 6 Landing
610 Midland Beaver Road, Industry
724-728-6767

Hours: Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner, Monday through Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; Sunday, 4-8 p.m.

The basics: Emphasis on seafood and pasta dishes at moderate prices; fresh seafood dinners, $15.95-$22.95 (changes with the market price); pastas, $13.95-$17.95; 10-ounce filet, $23.95; soup and appetizers, $3.50-$7.95; full bar and extensive wine list; free parking area; outdoor dining patios, bar and docking for boats; wheelchair accessible; children's menu; seats 120 inside; entertainment Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; reservations.

The last word: 3 stars



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