We live roughly 200 miles away from this establishment, but we visit the Laurel Highlands area approximately twice a year. We found Chef Dato's website while searching for a new restaurant to try. The promise of some delicious-tasting offerings on the menu were enough to make us divert from our usual route to head there for lunch.
Others have criticized the "atmosphere", but we found it charming and elegant in its own fashion. I suppose if the critics prefer more luxury trappings, they would then complain about the increase in the price of the dishes – which would become necessary to PAY for the "atmosphere". Small books – filled with patrons' comments – adorn each table, which make for interesting reading while you wait for your meal.
We started with the Crispy Provolone Cheese Wedges, which were large, tasty and crispy (as advertised!); they definitely were NOT greasy or oily, as such fried foods are wont. The entrées were beautifully presented, as well as extremely generous. The Broiled Cod with Buttery Crumb Topping makes other establishments' fish portions just look like bait. The impressive piece of cod was perfectly flaky and buttery, and the accompanying julienned vegetables and saffron basmati rice complemented the dish.
The Butternut Squash Ravioli was, in a word, superb. I would have gladly given the kitchen another 10-spot just to add a few more of them onto the plate – that's how delicious and near-addicting they were. The hazelnut liqueur cream sauce was inspired and paired well with the butternut squash, and the feta cheese and pepitas were a pleasant and unexpected taste delight. For those of you who relish "mouthfeel" in your dining experience, this dish will not disappoint.
Dessert was crème brûlée, which had a lovely creamy, vanilla-y silken custard beneath the crunchy sugar top. It was a wonderful finish.
If you're traveling in the area, you would do yourself a great favor by stopping in Chef Dato's for a truly delicious - and reasonably-priced! - meal. We are readjusting our future travel plans to accomodate a visit to Chef Dato's.
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