First Look: Cobra in Bloomfield
The new establishment features tableside grilling, a loungy bar, weekday karaoke and weekend club vibes.
Cobra, an immersive and slightly futuristic eating, drinking and dancing experience from Derek Burnell and Miranda Piso, is now open in Bloomfield. Located in the building that most recently housed Feng, Cobra fuses Korean-style tabletop grilling, a loungy bar, weekend club vibes and weekday private-room karaoke.
So far, I’m digging the vibe they’re offering.
“We wanted to break up the space into distinct sections. You can come here and never have to leave,” says Piso.
Burnell, who also owns Round Corner Cantina and El Burro and co-owns Umami, says he’s had his eye on the space for more than 10 years. He and Piso crafted an atmosphere that he says is reflective of “what people in the 1980s thought the future would look like.” But the aesthetic isn’t just retrovision; there are some distinctly contemporary touches such as a high-end sound system and LED lighting. Hues of purple and blue reflect off custom concrete blocks, offering moody nooks. It feels transportive.
The heart of the Cobra experience is the array of 10 smokeless Shinpo Yakiniku grills in the rectangular dining room. Burnell and Piso said they spent a lot of time researching Korean-style barbeque locations in Los Angeles, New York and other places prior to opening Cobra. The experience draws from those Korean culinary influences, and also is informed by the Japanese technique of yakiniku, meaning that all the butchering is done prior to service. “There’s no need for scissors or a steak knife. It’s perfectly butchered for one bite,” says Piso.
Piso conceptualized the menu, and Burnell developed it with Dan Kern (1201 Kitchen in Erie). Julio Peraza, who recently departed fl.2 at the Fairmont Hotel Downtown, joined the team last month as culinary director of operations and smoothed out the final touches. Peraza currently is overseeing the day-to-day operation of the kitchen. The Salvadorian chef, who grew up in Southern California and worked at celebrated restaurants such as Gary Danko prior to moving to Pittsburgh, will soon begin a refresh of the El Burro and Round Corner Cantina menus.
All the beef on the Cobra menu is either American or Japanese wagyu. There also are a handful of pork, seafood and vegetable choices (though this won’t be at the top of a vegetarian’s dream list). You can order individual cuts or choose from two pre-fixe options; all dishes include rice and banchan. The restaurant’s menu is rounded out with small plates such as a delicious caviar-topped potato, salads, fried rice and scallion pancakes.
Peraza’s butchering is extraordinary; my friends and I spent a delightful evening cooking the Cobra Omakase I option on the grill. I wish the heat were set a tad higher so the meat would have caramelized more quickly, but, even as is, it was a treat. For $44 per person, it didn’t feel ridiculously pricey (and the $68 option that includes Japanese wagyu is less expensive than high-end Korean BBQ in Los Angeles) considering the quality of the meat and how much food we had.
Cobra’s bar program, developed under the supervision of one of Pittsburgh’s most experienced food and beverage professionals, Rob Hirst, also is off to a strong start. I thought the menu read as a little too sweet — blue curacao, for example, is used in some drinks — but found the cocktails I’ve tried thus far balanced in flavor, visually stunning and different than anything that appears on any other cocktail list in the city. Much like at Umami, there is a strong-for-Pennsylvania sake list and excellent Japanese whisky and beer options to round things out.
The third room at Cobra features three private karaoke rooms which are open Sunday through Thursday, and weekend programming featuring local and national DJs.
“We love creating environments and experiences. We don’t want to open places that are straight restaurants that close at 9 p.m.,” Burnell says.
4305 Main St., Bloomfield; 412/682-2608, cobrapgh.com