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Dining Out: Soba, Umi to reopen May 8

Thursday, May 02, 2002

By Sarah Billingsley, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Hipsters, get out your distressed Diesel jeans and black wrap dresses: Your favorite haunt has risen, renovated, from the ashes. Soba and Umi restaurants, on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside, will reopen May 8.

An electrical fire closed the two big Burrito restaurants in May 2001, ending the reign of plushness at the old Soba lounge. The space has been rebuilt, complete with a two-story water wall, a rooftop patio, a hand-carved walnut bar by local artist Jim Ladner and an interior designed by New York architect Riva Sloan utilizing exotic woods, river rock and slate.

Soba will offer a vamped-up version of its Pan-Asian menu, featuring whole fish dinners for two and caviar flights. Their wine and sake list has swollen by 30 bottles, all available by the glass.

Mr. Shu, celebrated sushi chef, will return to Umi, the top-floor sushi restaurant. For reservations, call 412-362-5656.

Sea bass crisis

There are pirates in the waters off South American, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. Their booty is Chilean sea bass, a k a Patagonian toothfish.

More than 80 percent of the Chilean sea bass sold on the world market is illegally obtained, according to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an international organization that regulates the yearly sea bass catch to 18,000 tons.

The moist white fish, voted Bon Appetit magazine's "Dish of the Year" in 2001, is so popular that the species has quickly become overfished. Chilean sea bass are slow to mature and have a range limited to southern oceans and surrounding waters. CCAMLR says the fish will be extinct within three years if overfishing continues unchecked.

So restaurants in Northern California began the "Take a Pass on Chilean Sea Bass" movement in February, urging chefs to remove Chilean sea bass from their menus. The boycott, referred to as "Patagonia-gate" because many restaurants are buying illegally poached fish, has spread to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Philadelphia.

We inquired about participation at several Pittsburgh restaurants specializing in seafood, but none was involved.

New kid on block

Mezzanotte Cafe, on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield, opened April 11 with the poshest storefront on the block. The restaurant features light Italian fare -- pasta, panini, salads and a meat or fish of the day -- as prepared by chef Paul Schmid, formerly of Paul J.'s Trattoria in Sharpsburg. As of May 6, the restaurant plans to open for lunch, as well as dinner. Call 412-688-8070.

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