In Rivers Casino, steakhouse ups the ante

| Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009

It's a swanky place, all right, with a marble bar, light wood floors, high ceilings, muted lighting and neutral colors.

Andrew's Steak and Seafood, inside the new Rivers Casino on the North Shore, showcases a breathtaking view of the Ohio River. Draperies obscure the neon lights from the casino. Here, customers can enjoy their meals in relative peace and quiet, save for the upbeat jazz playing in the background.

Executive chef Anthony Harrington is in charge of the kitchen and the classic menu, which he says is French-based with a contemporary twist.

"This has been a team effort," says the British-born Harrington, 56. "We wanted more than a typical steakhouse. I was contacted by (Rivers Casino food and beverage vice-president) Jeff Worobel last year, and submitted my resume. I wanted to be part of the opening team."

No expense has been spared at Andrew's, he says. The organic meat, flown in from Colorado, is 100 percent Angus, raised with no steroids or antibiotics. Salmon comes from Scotland, and the other seafood is flown in three times a week from Boston.

"All of our lobsters come in live," Harrington says. "Our chicken is local, and we use Pennsylvania goat cheese. We use local produce as much as we can."

Harrington has been in the food business for 38 years. He went to culinary school in Cornwall, England, and soon left his country for culinary adventures around the world. After working in Holland and Bermuda, he came to the United States in 1981.

"I've worked all over the U.S. -- north, south, east and west," says Harrington, who lives in McCandless with his wife, Honor. They have two grown children. "I owned a restaurant in New Jersey, and worked for the Marriott Corporation for 15 years, where I worked at a lot of their resort properties."

His extensive experience helped in the creation of the menu, which features many steak dishes, as well as fresh seafood. A San Francisco-style seafood stew, cioppino, is a popular entree, as well as the fire-roasted ahi tuna, served with a plum ginger sauce. He serves the Elysian Fields lamb rack with a wild mushroom risotto and sun-dried tomato chutney. The pan-roasted chicken comes with farfalle pasta and basil cream with fresh spinach and sundried tomatoes.

Appetizers include crispy hoisin duck breast, seared scallops, roasted blue-point oysters, Chesapeake crab, sweet corn chowder, and tuna tartare. "My kitchen philosophy is fast, clean, and efficient -- and to take care of the guests. Every one of our nine cooks has their name on the plates. Every plate must be special."

He also has a sous chef and an assistant chef working with him.

Harrington says Andrew's is the only restaurant in Pittsburgh that has a Hot Rock. This oven gets as hot as 1,500 degrees and is used for appetizers.

When Harrington was asked to name his favorite meal, he had to think for a moment.

"That's a hard question for a chef," he says. "I like to eat fairly simply. I'm a great lover of bread and good cheese, fresh seafood and steaks."

The hardest part about being a chef is trying to manage many hats, he adds.

"You have to be an artist, an administrator and a technician," Harrington says. "It takes many skills to be a good chef. You have to be passionate about what you do. You have to surround yourself with good people and be a good mentor -- you need to have a good team."

He is big on presentation -- the dish has to "jump out at you" -- and he likes to play with the color and texture of a plate.

"The best part of this job is to see customers smiling and happy," he says. "We're doing very well here, we're very busy. It makes all the hard work worthwhile."

Fried Green Tomato Lobster Stack

Executive chef Anthony Harrington's Fried Green Tomato Lobster Stack is a popular appetizer.

"It's creamy, it's crunchy, and it's delicious," he says.

For the smoked tomato chutney:

• 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

14 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

14 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot

12 teaspoon grain mustard

12 teaspoon sugar

• 2 teaspoons honey

• 2 smoked red tomatoes, seeded and chopped into small pieces (see Note )

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Pinch cayenne pepper

For the tarragon cream sauce:

12 tablespoon butter

12 tablespoon chopped onions or shallots

12 cup chardonnay

• 1 tablespoon fresh chopped tarragon

• 1 cup heavy cream

14 cup cooked lobster, chopped

• Salt and white pepper, to taste

For the fried green tomatoes:

• 1 whole green tomato, cut into 6 slices, 14 inches wide, salted and peppered to taste

12 cup flour

• Egg wash of 2 eggs beaten with 1 tablespoon water

• 1 cup bread crumbs

14 cup olive oil

12 tablespoon butter

For assembly :

• 2 lobster claws, cooked

• Sprig of tarragon, for garnish, optional

To prepare the smoked tomato chutney: Place the cider vinegar, garlic, ginger, mustard, sugar and honey ( see Photo 1 ) in a skillet over medium heat. Cook for 3 minutes to let the flavors marry.

Add the chopped tomatoes and let cook down a little, for about 3 minutes ( Photo 2 ). Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Let cool to room temperature.

To prepare the tarragon cream sauce: Place the butter, onions, chardonnay and tarragon in a skillet over medium heat and let reduce a little, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the heavy cream ( Photo 3 ) and let cook down for 4 to 5 minutes, or until it becomes syrupy. Don't let the cream boil.

Add the chopped lobster and the salt and white pepper at the end, and heat through.

To prepare the fried green tomatoes: Pat the green tomato slices dry or place them on a paper towel to let excess moisture drain ( Photo 4 ). Dip in the flour, then the egg wash, and then the bread crumbs.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When it feels hot to the back of your hand, it's ready.

Place the tomato slices in the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown ( Photo 5 ).

Place on paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

To plate the appetizer: Put 1 tablespoon tarragon cream sauce on the bottom of plate and place a tomato slice on it. Add another tablespoon of sauce and another tomato slice. Add 1 more tablespoon of sauce and a final tomato slice.

Place a lobster claw on top. Do the same thing for the remaining tomato slices.

Arrange the tomato chutney around the plate and drizzle the plate with the remaining tarragon sauce. Add tarragon on top for a garnish.

Makes 2 servings.

Note: The Culinary Institute of America offers this method to smoke tomatoes:

Scatter a thin layer of wood chips in the bottom of a disposable aluminum pan. Place a rack over the chips (use balls of aluminum foil to elevate the rack above the chips, if necessary). Cut the tomato in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place it cut-side down on the rack. Cover the pan tightly with another disposable pan or aluminum foil. Place the smoker assembly over high heat until you smell smoke. Remove the pan from the heat but keep covered, for three to four minutes. Remove the skin from the tomato while still warm.

Additional Information:

Andrew?s Steak and Seafood

Cuisine : Classic French with a contemporary twist

Hours : 5-9:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Entree price range : $16-$55

Notes : A wine sommelier offers suggested wine pairings. Extensive wine collection. Major credit cards accepted. Handicapped accessible.

Address : Rivers Casino, 777 Casino Drive, North Shore

Details : 412-231-7777, ext. 3106, or Web site

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