Melange hosts medley of tastes
Melange's owner, Atul M. Vaidya, opened his first restaurant -- a steakhouse -- in Bombay in 2000. He since has opened several restaurants in India and Singapore. Melange, Downtown, is his first restaurant in the United States, although his company, Uniquest Hospitality Solutions, serves as a consultant for restaurants and bars in the United States and India.
Vaidya's sister, who is an internist in Pittsburgh, advised him to open a restaurant here, and he fell in love with the vibrancy and energy of the Cultural District. "With all the activities like theater, operas, symphonies, the proximity of the stadiums and, above all, the wonderful mix of people here, I couldn't have asked for more," he says.
Douglas B. Noxon serves as Melange's executive chef.
A graduate of Paul Smith's College in upstate New York with degrees in fine arts and culinary arts, Noxon has concern for the presentation and look of a dish as well as the kitchen skills needed to create it.
He previously served as executive chef and assistant director for Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, W.Va.
You'll find Melange where Frenchy's once stood and the Mazzoleni served Italian food from 1964 to 2003.
That longtime Downtown landmark has been replaced with an up-to-date streamlined, upscale dining room with burgundy walls, cushioned booths, blond wood tables and jazzy background music.
Big glass windows let in lots of light and offer a glimpse of the steady flow of pedestrian traffic on Sixth Street.
A low wall separates the dining room, which seats 100, from the busy bar area and its three obligatory television screens.
With a long list of single glasses of wine priced between $6.50 and $8 and appetizer choices such as Italian Antipasto Platter ($8) or Thai Mango Rolls ($9), it's a nice place to drop in for a pre-show treat or a full meal. Black-and-white photos focusing on sports players and musicians decorate the walls of the bar and restaurant areas. If that strikes you as somewhat generic and low-key, the effect is deliberate.
"We have created a theme which literally has no limitations," Vaidya says.
He plans to evolve the restaurant and its menu over time as seasons, tastes and interests change.
"We can give the restaurant a fresh look by changing these pictures periodically, without having to make major changes, yet infusing the interest," he explains.
Already there are plans to offer outside dining, specially themed dinners on Sunday and live jazz.
Open just over a month, its waitstaff is still learning the ins and outs of the menu and extensive wine list. But what they don't know, they're willing to find out.
Service is prompt and attentive, a plus for any restaurant operating within blocks of the major theaters and concert hall.
Melange means medley or mixture, and that's exactly what you'll encounter on the menu.
You can just about circle the globe with the wide-ranging and eclectic selection among the 14 entrees. Those with a taste for Indian food may opt for Tandoori Chicken ($19) on a bed of saffron rice, while those looking for British pub grub can tuck into English Fish and Chips ($19) served with mushy peas. Also available are familiar options such as Dry Rubbed Sizzling Cowboy Steak ($28) with four choices for an accompanying sauce, or a mozzarella-topped Grilled Vegetable Lasagna ($18) for vegetarians.
A bread basket filled with three bread choices is served with the meal.
Always a sucker for a little drama with our meal, we couldn't pass up the lure of Saganaki ($7), subtitled flaming cheese. Pan-fried lightly battered triangles of kefalotyri cheese were drizzled with brandy in the kitchen and set afire tableside. After the flames were extinguished with a shower of fresh lemon juice, we enjoyed the crunchy exterior as much as the melted, stretchy interior. Regrettably, the pita triangles that accompanied it were as hard as they were undistinguished.
Soup of the day ($5, cup; $5.50, bowl) was Cream of Mushroom , earthy and creamy with a welcome dollop of creme fraiche. My dining companion thought it might have been hotter, but that didn't stop her from consuming every drop.
Our server recommended the Pasta Pomidoro with Prosciutto ($16), ribbons of black pepper-flecked fettuccini tossed with bits of roasted tomato, basil, green onions, white wine, garlic, onion and pork, garnished with a thin sheet of prosciutto disguised as a rose and a lacy triangle of parmesan cheese.
Grilled Vegetable and Lamb Souvlaki ($32) offered chunks of lamb that were moist and tender but a tad overcooked, but the grilled peppers and onions were almost perfect and crisply tender. Rice with flecks of mint served as a bed for the souvlaki, and a small dish of the tzatziki, the Greek sauce of cucumber and yogurt, shared the plate.
Vaidya hopes to prevent what he calls "menu fatigue" by rotating items as inspiration and demand requires, so the menu you get next week might differ from the one we encountered.
One item we hope won't vanish any time soon is the dessert Mango Shrikand ($7). Like all the desserts -- with the exception of ice cream and sorbets -- it's made in house. A blend of yogurt, pureed ripe mango and pistachio pieces, it's sweet and rich enough to put a proper period to a meal while being light enough not to cause you to drowse off during the first act of the show you're attending.Additional Information:
Melange Bistro Bar
Cuisine : Eclectic international and American
Hours : 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mondays; 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays; 2 p.m. -midnight Saturdays; and noon-7 p.m. Sundays.
Credit cards : Accepts all major credit cards.
Entree price range : $19-$32
Notes : Look for outdoor dining, specially themed Sunday night dinners and live jazz in the near future.
Location : 136 Sixth St., Downtown.
Details : 412-325-4310