June 11, 2004

Chinese Food in Pittsburgh

by psu

After my rant about P. F. Chang's you might ask, "Pete, where do you get chinese food you like in Pittsburgh?". Ten or so years ago, my answer would have been "I call my mom and ask her to come into town." Happily, things have gotten better since the dark days of the mid to late 80s and early 90s. Now I believe that there are four places in town that it is safe to bring your Chinese Mother Who Can Cook for a meal and stand a fairly good chance of not completely blowing it.

1. Tasty

This dive in Shadyside breaks all the rules by having pictures of the food and being in a shopping center. But, they have really nice home style Cantonese food here which is a welcome change from the cookie cutter generic Americanized Szechuan standards that you see everywhere else.

Scrambled eggs with shrimp or sweet roast pork, eggplant and tofu hot pots, great fresh greens from Lotus, fried Udon noodles, and the Deanna Rubin memorial Beef Chow Fun are among the favorites here. Carol can get snippy, especially if you order the salty/spicy fried squid. So beware.

2. Chopstick Inn

Out in the sticks of the North Hills, this place has the largest and best Cantonese Seafood menu in the area; and most of it is well executed. Never get takeout. Great whole fish, whole roast chicken and duck, pork belly, and a few dishes involving animal parts normally not seen on plates around here round out a great selection. Good with kids.

3. Rose Tea Cafe

The bubble tea place has been around a long time, but the big news is that they are now serving food, and it's really really good. Fairly authentic Taiwanese style home cooking. Get any of the special "over rice" dishes (curry beef over rice, beef stew over rice, etc). The Taiwanese sausage is yummy, the pork stir fries look good, and for the adventurous, they have pork intestines served with large cubes of duck blood sausage, or something. I'm not sure what it was. But they make it there and it's yummy. The bubble tea is interesting too.

4. Ya Fei

Out in the sticks near IKEA. This is the most generic of the four places, but the good dishes here are really good, so it's worth going. I like the soft shell crabs and their other seafood things.

Posted by psu at June 11, 2004 11:07 PM | Bookmark This

Sadly, I heard today that Tasty will be changing hands. The owner is losing her lease and is not feeling like renewing. At least that's what we heard.

Previously I had said the place was closing, but Carol said today that the place will remain, just under new management.

Posted by psu at August 14, 2004 09:46 PM

Rose Cafe, ok. I am a big fan of the Vietnamese cubes of blood pudding in bun bo hue.

I will double check Tasty, but Chopstick Inn? Ick. Unless they have a special double secret menu ... When I stopped in 6 years ago, after I unfortunately had to move back to Pittsburgh, there was not much interesting. Ya, I got some take out. Sigh.

I am one of these old time Pittsburgh food hacks that remembers when Peking Royal Kitchen was open, and had dim sum. Kung Pao mussels for sunday brunch.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at May 6, 2005 11:45 AM

The Chopstick Inn that I speak of is maybe not the one you are thinking of.

This place only opened about 2 or 3 years ago up North. They replaced a place that had been in the same space.

They have an extensive menu of Cantonese stuff. It's good.

Posted by psu at May 6, 2005 02:12 PM

Chopstick Inn, with a web site of the same name, is a different, and much better place.

Since I was going to Borders, I stopped in to test run a lunch special. While those that are hard core price centric bottom feeders will be turned off by a lunch special includes either a egg roll, or soup. From the first spoonful of hot and sour, it was clear this place payed attention to even the commonplace. The soup was not the usual corn starch laden, cooked to death, soy sauce heavy glop that darkens most surplus crockware. There was actually al dente vegetables in it. I decided to spring for an extra eggroll. The usual abundance of cabbage, but with a sprinkling of ground pork, and even a tiny salad shrimp or two. The shrimp with garlic sauce was another good surprise. The shrimp looked to be 16-20's, and there was at least 1/2 dozen of them.

Their "other" menu with the Cantonese stuff is also on the web. Interesting, the Canton menu web counter has only one half the hits the main page does.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at May 8, 2005 07:49 PM

Now I remember Tasty. I blocked out the silly name. It is next to the Pizza Parma on Highland with the tiny goofy parking lot. Yup, eggplant and tofu garlic hot pot. It did not seem like they were very busy.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at May 8, 2005 07:56 PM

I am simply dumbstruck that a self-described "old time Pittsburgh food hack" went to Chopstick Inn and ordered from the Americanized menu while knowing of the existance of the traditional Cantonese menu. Ordering hot and sour soup and "spring[ing] for an extra eggroll"? Please. Go back to P.F. Chang's if you are going to order stuff like that, especially when so many marvelous alternatives are available.

Posted by rlink at May 8, 2005 11:10 PM

Please enjoy being dumstuck. I had visited the older incarnation. That was bad. I did not notice the "other" menu available anywhere during lunch. So, I was just taking a quick cheap base line measurement. So, many chinese places in Pittsburgh are so bad, that I was only willing to gamble with me $5.95 to start with. I fully expected that the place might have changed hands again. Hey, if they show care and interest in making the mundane enjoyable, that speaks volumes. At least to some of us.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at May 9, 2005 11:03 PM

In case anybody came across this post while searching for authentic Cantonese (like I did)... Chopstick Inn is closed. However, there is now a Szechuan restaurant in its place, China Star. If you order off its Chinese menu, the food is quite tasty. My fiance and I had a beautifully steamed perch with a soy oil sauce and tea smoked shredded duck.

So, it's not Cantonese, but it's good enough (for the Pittsburgh area) that we're considering it for our wedding banquet (although we will keep looking for a good Cantonese place).

Posted by Kate at May 24, 2006 08:57 PM

I have been to China Star once, and it was tasty. The lack of an english translation of the good menu is a bit of a bummer.

As far as I know, the best Cantonese place around here is still Ka Mei (which is run by the Tasty people). But it's not where you want to have a banquet.

Posted by psu at May 25, 2006 09:26 AM

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