Review: Hyeholde

Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Hyeholde continually evolves, serving exceptional food in a matchless setting.

Photos by Laura Petrilla

Although it’s located 10 minutes from the airport, Hyeholde is an oasis of natural beauty, a place serving traditional meals in a relaxing atmosphere. Set on four acres of gardens with stone paths, the main building is a “castle” filled with fireplaces, giant waxed timbers, stucco walls, tapestries and stained-glass windows. Each visit to Hyeholde feels like a special occasion.

You can experience the restaurant in a number of ways: Inside, sit in one of the intimate dining rooms or reserve the chef’s table in the kitchen. Weather permitting, dine outdoors on the newly built patio, and order fairly priced burgers, salmon and chicken. For a rustic and romantic experience, pre-select one of executive chef Jim Brinkman’s gourmet picnic baskets to enjoy on a blanket on the restaurant’s grounds (reservations are required). Or, for special events, book the Round Room (a separate building), which can accommodate as many as 110 people — perfect for weddings.

Owner Barbara K.S. McKenna is the daughter of original owners William and Clara Kryskill. William proposed to Clara on the Hyeholde land, and the two proceeded to build the castle in the ’30s, using materials from a nearby barn, as charmingly described in William’s book, The Story of Hyeholde (1940).

The upcoming milestone makes McKenna beam with pride. “We have a great staff and a wonderful venue,” she says. “Not many restaurants make it to 75 years.” Hyeholde will host a series of anniversary events, including a dinner on Oct. 2, where each of the six savory dishes will be prepared by a different Hyeholde alumnus — Derek Stevens of Eleven, Richard DeShantz of Meat & Potatoes and Nine on Nine, Chris O’Brien of Restaurant Echo, culinary teacher Art Inzinga, Drew Lise of Willow, and chef Brinkman himself.

Hyeholde’s staff includes culinary experts with experience, knowledge and great talent. Chef Brinkman has been with the restaurant for 16 years, initially serving as pastry chef and dining room manager. His first courses, which are served with warm homemade bread, are among the highlights. Mushroom lovers will enjoy the panseared wild mushrooms ($10), since a generous portion sits in a rich miso vinaigrette. The carpaccio ($14) showcases flavorful, thinly sliced prime filet accented with capers, tomatoes and lemon. The jumbo lump crab cakes ($14.50) are terrific, chunky with plenty of crab and lightly pan-fried — but not the least bit greasy. The vegetable timbale ($9) is a refreshing tower of roasted vegetables (peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms), accented with homemade garden pesto.

The sherry bisque ($5.75) is a Hyeholde tradition, made with ham stock and a touch of cream. The Caesar salad ($7.50) is another signature item, presented as a bouquet of romaine leaves, bound with speck ham and drizzled with thick housemade dressing.

The entrées range from average to outstanding. My favorite is the pan-seared trout ($29), featuring two skin-on pieces of fresh fish served with fingerling potatoes, capers, tomatoes, greens, olive oil and lemon. It’s always a treat to eat meaty elk, and Hyeholde’s is no exception: The Pine Nut Cervena (New Zealand free-range) elk ($39) is encrusted with pine nuts, and served with a delicious creamy mushroom bread pudding, small roasted heirloom beets and a bordelaise sauce.

Another very good entrée is the grilled, spiced pork tenderloin ($33); thick chunks of properly cooked meat are served with a legume cassoulet and avocado (yum!).

My most disappointing entrée was the salt-block halibut ($38), an absolutely beautiful piece of white fish that was overcooked; however, the accompaniments — toasted couscous, artichoke hearts, capers and dried sour cherries — were excellent.

I found the desserts ($7.50 each) to be less pleasing than the savory food. The apple-caramel walnut bread pudding, made with brioche, was by far the best one. However, the tiramisu parfait was unacceptable, soaked with too much rum, which gave it a strong boozy flavor and a goopy texture.

The beverage selection, overseen by dining room manager Deborah Goydich, is extensive, with a large list of cocktails, wines and liquors. Our server graciously allowed us to taste a number of wines before we even committed to a glass. I sampled six of the red wines offered by the glass and only liked one, the Castle Rock Pinot Noir ($14); among the whites available by the glass, I enjoyed the St. Chapelle Reisling ($8.50). I suspect that Hyeholde is a restaurant where you should invest in a bottle.

Here’s a salute to McKenna, whose commitment and hard work have kept Hyeholde alive and continually evolving. We are very lucky to have such a special place in Pittsburgh.

Jim Brinkman
Executive Chef, Hyeholde

Hyeholde has existed for 75 years, yet there are folks who still haven’t dined there. What would you tell someone who hasn’t visited?
Some people think Hyeholde is only for special occasions. We want people to think of it as a warm, down-to-earth place where you can have supper and get as much or as little attention from the servers as you want. I also think it’s very reasonably priced.

What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create?
We want it to be a warm experience, like eating in someone’s home. This is our home. My experience in the front of the house got me in the habit of talking to customers, so I get a lot of feedback about the food. Barbara [K.S. McKenna] is the same. It’s very important that you earn people’s trust. I also want everyone in the kitchen to be really involved. We all work together to develop new foods — and everyone works at each other’s stations. The chef’s table is a real opportunity for us to spend time with guests so they can see what we actually do and how much care goes into each dish.

What’s new at Hyeholde?
I’m really excited about our new outdoor patio. It has a fireplace and a grill. We are going to offer elk and filet burgers on homemade brioche buns, grilled salmon salad, local chicken — and everything will be less than $15. I envision it as a really relaxing place in the summer, and in the fall, you can wear a jacket and drink hot cocoa near the fire. A good place to forget about the world.

What’s new in your cooking practice?
Right now, I’m really into using interesting salt. I’ve been purchasing Himalayan pink salt blocks. You use a salt block like a cast-iron pan; if you heat it to a high temperature and sear foods on it, it imparts a saltiness that’s very earthy. It works for fish, meats and poultry.

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