Below Right: Andrew’s Steak & Seafood’s steamed mussels with saffron and sofrito. Below Left: Halibut with wild mushroom sauce, fennel and Brussels sprout leaves.(Photos/Steven Hughes)

I began my meal at Andrew’s Steak & Seafood at the Rivers Casino at dusk, watching the sun dance on the Ohio River and the incline traveling up and down Mt. Washington.

To start, I enjoyed rustic paesano bread from Mediterra bakery with creamy Plugra butter and Cristalino Champagne, which complimented the bread perfectly.

As I awaited my first course, I felt relaxed. Andrew’s is not the typical, stuffy kind of steakhouse. The colors are soothing, divided with crisp and clean lines. A few art deco paintings of local icons adorn one wall, but absent are the hounds of Baskerville paintings that are as cliché in a steak house as the stuffed swordfish is in a seafood restaurant.

The server first brought me steamed mussels. To my surprise, the mussel flavor was not lost in the saffron taste, and the addition of homemade sofrito — a traditional ingredient used in Spain — played nicely with the chorizo and white wine also present in the sauce. It was finished monte au buerre, French for “to add butter,” which rounded off the edges.

Next was beef tartare, which rivaled that of Nine on Nine’s across the river Downtown. Andrew’s elevates its version to a whole new level with emulsified truffle vinaigrette painted artfully across the plate. The minced beef flavor was further enhanced with steeped egg yolk, citrus and caper and the potato crisps were a refreshing variation on a typical crostini.

The next dish I tried, Halibut, was presented with flawless execution. Seared crisp but still tender, then bathed in the earthen flavor of wild mushroom broth, fennel and vibrant leaves of Brussels sprouts, it made me feel like I was dining in a solarium or in the middle of a rainforest. The dish evoked warm feelings of health, love and life.

I typically have difficulty ingesting New York strip steak because of its rougher texture, but I chose it for my next entrée knowing it would be a good test of Andrew’s supplier. Much to my surprise and delight, the strip had the tenderness of a well marbled rib eye steak and went down easy.

The must-try dry aged beef is made with meat from Creek Stone Farms in Colorado. The farm feeds its beef cows grass and then corn for the last few months, which creates the dish’s unique flavor.

Andrew’s Chef Tim McLaughlin’s braised lamb shank is authentic, and maintains the integrity of an important dish within its culinary tradition. The presentation is crisp and clean and garnished with gremolata, which is a mix of lemon zest, garlic and parsley, although McLaughlin substitutes mint for parsley.

The shank held its shape while still being incredibly fork tender, as if it reached its zenith somewhere between the kitchen and my table. The creamy mascarpone polenta and rosemary jus created a dramatic spherical presentation.

Andrew’s proved that perfection can also be found in side dishes, which are often overlooked and forgotten. Their creamed spinach held firm and came with a hint of garlic, rich cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Pastry Chef Adam Tharpe coaxed me into an avant garde world of desserts with his banana gratin. Flaky crust with a hint of nuttiness, smooth banana gelatin topped with a layer of cream, caramelized like the oxidized end of a banana and garnished with chocolate, it was the perfect finish to a delicious meal.

For an encore, restaurant manager Russell Werme served me flaming coffee: quite a show and well worth the price of admittance.

Andrew’s also has one of the best wine lists of any casino in Pennsylvania, and Christian Tripodi, Andrew’s sommelier, offered his help in pairing wines with my courses. He added if I have trouble finding the same wine locally, he could ship it to my store of choice.

But, with dishes like the ones at Andrew’s, I’d just as soon drink the wine there.

Steven Hughes graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Pittsburgh in 1994, and has worked with many types of cuisines in chef positions across the country. He has also worked as the culinary director for the "Mind of a Chef" cooking school at In the Kitchen, located in the Strip District.

This story has been updated to show the following corrections: Andrew’s chef’s name is Tim McLaughlin, not Tim McCollough as originally stated.  Andrew’s pastry chef’s name is Adam Tharpe, not Adam Thorpe as originally stated.  The Northside Chronicle regrets the errors.