Tag Archives: asian

Chicago: Day Two

The sky was blue, the sun was out, so we headed for the lake...

Saturday was so beautiful, the drinking I had done at Gallery Cabaret the night before could not keep me in bed. I wanted to walk in the sunshine, see a bit of the neighborhood, get a cup of coffee, and maybe grab a dose of greasy Mexican diner food.

Sadly, the only Mexican restaurant that fit the bill didn’t seem to be open at the time. A stroll down a few blocks back toward my hostel brought me another quick breakfast option.

Austrian Bakery and Deli on Urbanspoon

I have been in other businesses, mostly bakeries, that have a specific cultural cuisine focus, but they’re usually spare, family owned places with white walls and floors, spare shelves, and a strange sense of permanent temporariness. Austrian Bakery was warm and welcoming, filled with what seemed to be a good mix of locals and both stateside and international travelers. The small seating area was completely cramped with people, with just a little open seating at the counter in the window. My walk, however, had gone on a little too long and I wanted to get back to the hostel to rouse my partner from his slumber, so I ordered a coffee and cheese pocket pastry to go.


My mouth is watering just for the thought of it. The sweet pastry gave way to a surprisingly mild cheese filling that perfectly coated the inside layers. It was present in every bite, but not overwhelming and not too sweet. The only minor detractor was the abundant powdered sugar, which didn’t add anything necessary to the pastry and made it messier than it could have been.

But, like I said, that was a minor complaint. I gobbled the pastry down minutes after bringing it back to the hostel. For as leisurely as our trip was, I probably should have taken more time to savor its deliciousness.

Because Friday’s weather had been so crappy, we had stayed fairly close to Lincoln Park. Saturday’s gorgeous weather afforded us the conditions to stray a bit farther into the city. We took advantage of our three-day CTA passes and hopped on a train to Chinatown.


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Chaya Japanese Cuisine


I lived in Squirrel Hill for years and never visited Chaya Japanese Cuisine. When I finally made my first visit last summer – to their new location in what used to be Sweet Basil – I felt a deep, deep remorse for all the times I could have eaten there and did not. Better, in the long run, for my wallet, certainly, but my appetite was left feeling like it had finally found the missing piece.

Chaya is that good. The food is fresh and delicious. The atmosphere is cozy and warm. Stepping into the doors on a freezing, wind-blasting evening was like taking shelter in the storm. There is even a curtain over the front entrance to protect inside of the restaurant from the furious vengeance of the outside winter.

Chaya’s interior is a softly glowing meditation on Japanese iconic images and decor. And despite how small the dining area is, the seating never seems packed. Diners are at a seemingly comfortable distance from one another, yet the restaurant manages to have enough seating to accommodate a large amount of visitors. This is artful, intelligent interior design and perhaps a little chance on my part, because I have never been to Chaya on a really, really busy night. But I have been there at six in the evening on Saturday, and around eight on a Wednesday, and neither hours seemed in want of customers or in want of seating.

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The Surprises of Silk Road

I have come to the decision that the best part about dining isn’t really just the exceptional food possibilities or the atmosphere of the place you are dining in or even the company you keep while dining out. The best part about dining out is how all the possible good and bad factors of eating outside your own home come into play in unexpected ways. The saying “You get what you pay for” isn’t so much a negative criticism as it is a knock against the expected: Go to the same place time and time again and get the same experience time and time again, and that is the essence of getting what you pay for. A value and experience share a definition.

Some people want, nay, crave the expected, so they only go to a handful of places (if anywhere – I know plenty of people who are in a similar habitual loop with their home cooking as people who frequent one or two eateries) and quickly establish a routine that insures an edible safety zone.

While there is nothing wrong with this in a general sense, that type of behavior is not really my thing, and I’m guessing it would be safe to assume that the dozen or so lovely readers I have are similar to me in that way. For the food enthusiast, food lover, gastronomic adventurer, taste junkie, snack addict, dining explorer, or, even, shudder, the foodie, eating is more than survival obtained by chew and swallow and digest. Eating is a chance to take a chance, to take a risk, to venture reward in the face of loss, to produce, to consume, to experience through the realm of senses. For some, eating is akin to sex (indeed, these are the basic activities of mankind that utilize all five senses and to an enormous degree), for others, eating is the best and quickest way to learn about… anything.

I don’t really mean to ramble on and on about this, but it turns out I had a lot to reflect upon after a visit to Silk Road. This Chinese restaurant bears an unassuming front among the other shops and restaurants in Caste Village, but coming through its front doors is nothing short of being transported to its very specific world. The seating area is spread about and separated by partitions, wood and stone half-walls, beams, and warmly painted walls. Each little section is its own habitat, united in general theme, but invoking a feeling slightly different from the rest. Large canvas sconces of light come up from wall and float through holes in a blocks of false ceiling. It’s eye-catching, modern, with touches of the ancient heritage implied by the restaurant’s name. What’s more, it’s comfortable and well-lit, serving as a nice environment to a group of friends dining, which is exactly what we were.

My partner and I joined our friends Maureen and Brandon at the restaurant and were quickly seated with full water glasses, hot tea, and menus in front of us. Taking advantage of the good wine list, Maureen ordered a glass of Riesling. Brandon ordered a Yuengling. Hard pressed to pass up the opportunity when it comes along (which if you eat in as many Asian establishments as I do is rather frequent), I ordered a Sapporo. James stuck with the hot tea.

Admittedly, this was not the first time at the restaurant for myself, nor Maureen and Brandon. The two had held their engagement dinner there, at which I was present. Ever since that dinner we had been singing the praises to James, especially in reference to Silk Road’s substantial vegetarian menu. I’m always a little conservative with the Asian restaurants I rave about to him – he compares every place to his favorite Philly area restaurant, Kingdom of Vegetarians, and supposedly few are matches for this place (having not been there, I can only take his word for it) – but Silk Road inspired the confidence to rave and rave about the meal we had without fear of eventual disappointment on his end. Continue reading

Fiftieth Post! Let’s celebrate with a giveaway and list!

Yep, it’s our fiftieth post. Feels like just yesterday we were squabbling over a blog name, finding pictures of forks, figuring out what the heck we might write about. Ah, those were simpler times. We’d drive the ol’ jallopey to the local hootenany, a community picnic or barbecue, then have  the local artist sketch pictures of our food. Then we’d type out our criticisms of the local farmer’s wife’s apple pie (too crumbly, woman!) and, using a homemade printing press, we’d deliver copies of our newsletter to our reluctant neighbors who believed us to be Commies.

Yes, we’ve come a long way since those dusty dirt roads and ink-stained newsletters. We’re riding fast on the information highway, and nothing is going to stop us now!

To thank the few of you who read us on a regular basis (and the few of you who read us semi-regularly, and the many who have only dropped in for a post or two), I’m announcing the Fifty Post Celebratory Giveaway: Simply post a comment below with your favorite eating place in Pittsburgh (or one of your favorites, you lovely gluttons) and your email address, and I will pick a winner at random.

The winner will receive a dozen homemade cookies and assorted useless trinkets from Dot’s Dollar Store (cheerfull provider of lottery tickets and ugly mugs to the Mt. Lebanon area). I will announce the winner on Monday, November 22.

Also, for our fiftieth post, I thought we’d cobble together a list of our fifty favorite eating spots in Pittsburgh. These are not ranked, just an assorted collection of fifty restaurants (and take-out stands and street -vendors) in Pittsburgh worth giving a try.

Fifty Places to Eat in Pittsburgh
1. Mekong Restaurant 
2. DeLuca’s
3. Enrico Biscotti
4. The Zenith
5. Spak Bros.
6. Spice Island
7. People’s Restaurant
8. Tana Ethiopian
9. Smiling Banana Leaf
10. Dor-Stop Diner
11. It’s Greek to Me
12. Aladdin’s
13. Namaste
14. Cambod-Ican Kitchen
15. Cafe Du Jour
16. Bloomfield Bridge Tavern
17. Six Penn Kitchen
18. Kaya
19. Angelo’s Pizzeria
20. Las Palmas weekend taco stand
21. Bangkok Balcony
22. Chicken Latino
23. Tram’s Kitchen
24. Molly Brannigan’s
25. Dormont Dogs
26. Coriander Indian Grill
27. J’eet
28. Paris 66
29. Round Corner Cantina
30. Abay’s Ethiopian
31. Conflict Kitchen
32. Rocky’s
33. New Amsterdam
34. Thunderbird Cafe
35. Frankie’s Extra Long
36. Gypsy Cafe
37. Tamarind Savoring India
38. Piper’s Pub
39. The Quiet Storm
40. Chaya Japanese Cuisine
41. Thai Cuisine
42. Mexico City
43. D’s Six Pax & Dogz
44. Tessaro’s
45. Crystal
46. Milky Way
47. Casbah
48. Double Wide
49. Big Dog Coffee
50. Sun Penang

A Little Lunchtime Noodling

While I am a firm believer in eating fresh foods (not to mention local, sustainable, organic, and home grown foods) I cannot deny the allures of processed foodstuffs, particularly the kind of junk that makes quick, cheap meals. Lately, it just doesn’t seem like I can get it together enough to bring in some leftovers of a meal from the night before, let alone make something fresh to take with me to work the next day. I’ve recently discovered that using the excuse, “I don’t have anything to make a lunch out of,” doesn’t apply when I clearly do have food in my kitchen that could make a good lunch. What gives?

Well…laziness, probably, and a need to go to bed earlier so that my early rising time isn’t greeted with a mumbled “five…more min… ZZZZZZZZ” and a palm-slam on the snooze button. But another reason is that I allowed my eating habits to devolve to the point where I’m actually enjoying a particular junk-lunch cuisine: Instant noodles. Continue reading