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Setting, seafood make Sewickley Speakeasy a hot destination |

Setting, seafood make Sewickley Speakeasy a hot destination

| Sunday, June 30, 2002 12:00 a.m

The decor at the Sewickley Speakeasy might not be contemporary, but the food on the table is up-to-date elegant.

The 94-seat restaurant at 17 Ohio River Blvd., Haysville, offers the feel of an old, comfortable house. And that’s essentially what it is — a 160-year-old converted residence with original hardwood floors featuring dining tables set so pleasingly apart that you have to try to listen to a neighbor’s conversation.

An outdoor concrete patio seats an additional 50 guests, and the upstairs serves as a 75-seat banquet facility. Windows on one side of the restaurant offer a sweeping view of the Ohio River and nearby train tracks — and diners can hear the trains go by several times a day.

The Sewickley Speakeasy, formerly the Haysville Lounge, opened about five years ago. Owner Deborah Pivaronas decided to renovate the structure with the theme of a Roaring ’20s speakeasy. In keeping with the “spirit” of Prohibition, she stocks more than 300 kinds of wines, ranging in price from $8 to more than $200 a bottle.

Pivaronas says the house, built in the 1840s, was the residence of a Capt. John Hay. Hay had heard that the natural springs in the hillside behind the house had curative powers, so he constructed a 100-room spa where people came from all over to bathe in and drink the mineral waters.

“The spring water can still be drawn from the kitchen area,” Pivaronas says. “It’s very good water. I can serve it if someone requests it.”

The restaurant’s popularity rests on fresh fish and aged beef steaks. Amberjack, swordfish, snapper, tuna, halibut, tilapia, salmon, scallops and shrimp are flown in twice a week from Florida. Executive chef Janice Palla not only pairs the seafood and meat with seasonings and sauces, she also makes all the desserts from scratch. She is assisted by culinary school students Adam Johnston and Lenny Phillips.

Oriental Marinated Grilled Tuna, a house feature, is one of the restaurant’s most popular items — the kitchen has been known to run out of it on busy nights. Thick tuna steaks soak up an Asian-style marinade for a couple of hours, then they are grilled and baked. The fish, succulent and juicy, is drizzled with two sauces and wasabi (green Japanese “horseradish”).

Palla suggests serving this with pinot noir, accompanied by baked potatoes or a rice pilaf. Bottled plum sauce is available at Asian markets.

Oriental Marinated Grilled Tuna

  • 2 (3-inch-thick) tuna steaks, about 6 ounces each
  • Bottled plum sauce
  • 6 snow peas, blanched
  • 6 mandarin orange segments, drained and patted dry
  • Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Roasted peanuts
  • Wasabi paste

    For the marinade:

  • 6 ounces ( 3/4 cup) soy sauce
  • 6 ounces ( 3/4 cup) peanut oil
  • 3 ounces dry sherry
  • 1 ounce honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons orange peel, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh gingerroot, grated

Combine the marinade ingredients and blend well. Pour over the tuna and marinate the fish in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Remove the tuna from the marinade and grill over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium doneness.

Place each piece of tuna in the middle of an individual plate, top with some plum sauce, and garnish each plate with 3 blanched snow peas and 3 mandarin orange segments. Drizzle Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce around the plate. Top with roasted peanuts and place a dab of wasabi paste to the side as a condiment.

Makes 2 servings.

Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce

  • 2 ounces shallots, minced
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) dry white wine
  • 3 ounces lemon juice
  • 3 ounces white vinegar
  • 8 ounces (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 pounds cold butter, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Combine the shallots, wine, lemon juice and vinegar in a pan. Heat to reduce the mixture until nearly dry. Add the heavy cream and reduce by half. Take off the heat and strain the sauce. Whip in the cold butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 1 1/2 pints.

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