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By Jennifer Pesci-Kelly

Pittsburgh May 2002

The theme from Goldfinger plays in the back­ground, and I can't help but think of drink, that are stirred but not taken

I'm actually stirred when a menu arrives. Bossa Nova. meaning .. new trend" in Portuguese, lives up to its name. A selection of ta pas ("small bites") offers more than a dozen Spanish or Japanese tastes. served as little tidbits to facilitate sharing. Be pre­pared to alter your preconceived notions of a meal. I recommend at least two tapas per person-more if you're ravenous-and ask that they stagger the deliv­ery so you have a constant succession of food.

Raw and smoked seafood dance with vegetables in a spiral of rice in several maki rolls ($6.95), and ahi tuna ($9.95) and large Peking 5 scallops ($8.95) are both seared. lf you're more interested in food that has experienced the inside of a pan, the chicken que­sadilla ($7.95) is loaded with cilantro, dnd little sweetness. Ripe grapes are the perfect foil to the spicy sausage in chorizo asturiano ($5.95).

Layer5 of eggplant, squash, portobello mushrooms and roasted peppers in the vegetable napoleon {$6.95) could have used a little more time on the heat, as il was a bit too al dente.

The large grilled shrimp in the el taro ($9.95) is called the house feature, but it paled in compari­son with other bold dishes. Salads are also large enough to be passed around the table­ chicken pine-nut salad ($8.95) was topped with Maytag blue cheese and lots of nuts. rm waiting on the buffalo moz­zarella and tomato salad {$6.95) for the first ripe fruit of the season.

The lights shift from red to violet, then yellow and finally lime green. lusty silk curtains separate semiprivate dining areas, so you can have an intimate tete-a­tete even on the busiest of nights. If you're there to be seen-and it certainly fs the center of Pittsburgh's after-work scene-you'll likely find you1self at the large round glass bar, or at one of the plush velvet seats in the front window.

Desserts are all made in-house and served in reasonable, one-person portions, like the cheesecake ($7.95)with several small, triangular slices. The apple flan ($7.95) wasn't really how I recall the traditional Spanish custard with a caramel top, but instead resembling a tarte tatin layered with crisp apples.

This trendy lounge keeps the lights low, and your food is illuminated by little more than a centerpiece of candles on each table, but you can't overlook the dramatic presentation of each dish. Ta pas and desserts are strategically drizzled with sauce or accompanied by artistic final touches-like colorful ringlets of carrot or a buttery shortbread that was a dead ringer for a slice of swiss cheese.


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