Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Jimmy Wan's Taipei

Yes, you can find sophisticated Pan-Asian fare at a strip shopping center in Cranberry Township, just journey into Jimmy Wan’s Taipei restaurant.




Crispy chicken with broccoli; foreground: Kung Pao-style filet mignon with peanuts, mushrooms, onions, red peppers, green peppers, scallions, ginger and chili pepper.

Photo by Laura Petrilla

A quick cup of saké takes the chill from the air, while the sassy Friday-night crowd gets our endorphins pumping at the stunning East-West environ at Jimmy Wan’s Taipei. I’m struck with that same excitement I feel upon initially arriving in a vastly different culture far from home. And because the best ethnic food is so often found in little haunts that only locals know about, when a friend said “a little spot with Chinese food in a commercial strip mall,” I was off, headed for Jimmy Wan’s Taipei in Cranberry, grateful for the lead.

The stunning interior is in such contrast to the inauspicious, repetitive shopping-center facade that an instant mood change washes over our group’s psyches, wiping away the hassles of the day including, in this case, the drive from the city. The food at Jimmy Wan’s Taipei is Pan-Asian, heavy on the Chinese—unless you take a seat at the popular sushi bar, where busy chefs are working like artists.

For general manager Jimmy Wan Jr., “The evolution of Chinese food starts with Japanese fusion and the influence of sushi,” he explains. We nab a taste of hamachi (yellowtail), silken, buttery and soft, glimmering over molded rice. Wan, an affable young man with his father’s way with people, moved back to Pittsburgh from San Francisco in 2006 to open the Cranberry location with his dad, who’s been in the restaurant business for 35 years. The goal: “To focus on the whole dining experience and create something special along with reinterpreting Asian cuisine,” says Jimmy Jr., who goes on to express his pride in an expansive saké list, the largest in Western Pennsylvania. Wan also lauds the Cranberry-area clientele, a generally young demographic with adventurous spirits. “I’ve seen people go from ordering nothing but General Tso’s Chicken to becoming sushi fanatics in a relatively short time span.”

As soon as we sit down, a server drops off a complimentary bowl of fried wonton wrappers with fresh, house-made duck sauce (using fruit, not just sugar) and spicy mustard (this will clear the sinuses). Wan says sauces are the backbone of Chinese cooking. These are appropriate for just about all of the appetizers except edamame, fresh, steamed soybeans glistening with kosher rock salt that you pop out of pod-like cocoons.

We splurged on appetizers that first visit: wontons, vegetable rolls, dumplings, crabmeat Rangoon with crispy skins in the shape of lotus flowers filled with cream cheese and scallion, and an old-fashioned scallion pancake served with a pungent hot-chili oil that has a 10-second delay. Your taste buds will appreciate the warmth.

To counter the invigorating spices, we found comfort in the delicate, elemental spiritual quality of miso soup floating with tofu, seaweed, shiitake mushroom and scallion. While on the subject of soup, know that fresh wonton soup with roast pork, napa cabbage, pork wontons and scallion is proof that authenticity and improvisation are compatible. It brings the standard Chinese broth into the modern realm. Note the tag “fresh”—the grass is not always greener on the other side, but sometimes it is more aromatic.

Between courses we were flagging. But a heaping plate of shrimp and scallops, Sichuan-style, with nicely tumbled vegetables got us back into the game. I love the deep earthy tones in a dish of sautéed eggplant with spicy garlic sauce. A tangerine-orange filet mignon, 10-ounce medallions with orange peel and a tangy marmalade, offers a sophisticated, citrus-y sweetness to a no-miss cut of meat. For the less adventurous, Kung Pao filet mignon is the way to go.
The second time around, we became better at deploying the menu. We cut both an extra-crispy egg roll and doughy spring roll into pieces. The universal thrill of wrapping and unwrapping applies to food, in this case unraveling time-honored armature and adding duck or mustard sauce as you please. I like an aromatic hot-and-sour soup with fresh tofu, egg, bamboo, mushroom, shredded pork and scallion, full-flavored and spicy without going overboard, foiling subtler flavors. It satisfies my quest for hot and spicy, a reaction to the “Irish food” of my childhood and my father’s cautious taste for overcooked meat and potatoes.

We took our server’s suggestion for lettuce duck wrap, big enough to share three or four ways—maybe the first time in years I’ve found a good use for iceberg lettuce, in this case, as a pocket for an eclectic mix of diced duck meat, dried cranberry, water chestnuts, and red and green pepper. Tastier than chicken, the duck provides a contrast and counterpoint that I like. Chilean sea bass is Wan’s favorite dish, and I can say mine now, too. This buttery fish with a lot of body and a flake as big as a domino is presented dorsal side up with a honey/miso marinade that (by first pan-searing and then baking) adds sweetness and a slight crunch. Head sushi chef Dan Forester, with Taipei for 11 years, invented the sauce.

Good Chinese/Japanese cooking is like good cooking anywhere today. Fresh, high-quality ingredients, the hallmark of Pan-Asian cuisine, allow guests to imagine buying the food from local vendors on a bustling Singapore street just as easily as they can picture themselves dining in a fancy hotel restaurant replete with tuxedoed servers bearing hot, scented towels. As global boundaries shift, cultures blur and the world becomes more familiar with cuisines from diverse cultures, a gastronomic sampling of unadulterated traditions is a lovely thing.

There is a revolution in food, and it is all about simplicity and preserving the uniqueness of each ingredient—until dessert. No tofu mousse or green-tea ice cream here, but I will usually kill for a trashy American cheesecake. Wan’s is wonderfully dense and all about the crust.

If a lively sanctuary sounds like an oxymoron you’d be interested in, check out Jimmy Wan’s Taipei on a weekend night. In these anxious times, a restaurant like this is restorative.


1686 Route 228, Cranberry. Info: 724/778-8978, taipeipgh.com.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As of a film, there are issues.

Popular Peter's Pub Announces Final “Last Call”

The owners of the Oakland Avenue bar announced on Facebook they have decided to retire -- but are planning one last “hoorah.”

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Looking for a Royal Wedding Watch Party in Pittsburgh?

With the ceremony just hours away, several watch parties and live screenings of the nuptials have already sold out. But we found a few more places in Pittsburgh still taking guests whose invitations got lost in the mail.

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Sunrise, Sunset: Pittsburgh Playhouse's Second Act

The curtain is closing this month on the historical Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland, but it will rise again when Point Park University this fall unveils its new theater Downtown, a space with a history of its own.

A Matter of Pride: Delta Foundation's Struggles with Success

Within the span of 10 years, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh has brought the city’s annual Pride festival to previously unimaginable heights. That growth, however, has left some members of the community behind — and unhappy.

Remembering Bruno Sammartino: “The Italian Superman”

The storied grappler captured the imagination — and the hearts — of generations of Pittsburghers.

Best Restaurants 2018

This year we recommend 40 establishments as our region's top restaurants.For the second year in a row, we categorize the restaurants in All-Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out and Classic Pittsburgh to help you find whatever suits your mood.

Chef of the Year: Jamilka Borges

Jamilka Borges, executive chef of Independent Brewing Company and Hidden Harbor, raises the bar with her dedication to volunteerism as well as her culinary prowess.

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

If You Jump, We Jump (At The Giant Bouncy House for Adults)

The world’s biggest bouncy house is coming to the Lawrence County Fair in New Castle.

The 400-Word Review: Deadpool 2

Can the sequel to the lightning-in-a-bottle superhero hit live up to its predecessor?

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Popular Peter's Pub Announces Final “Last Call”

Popular Peter's Pub Announces Final “Last Call”

The owners of the Oakland Avenue bar announced on Facebook they have decided to retire -- but are planning one last “hoorah.”

Comments

Looking for a Royal Wedding Watch Party in Pittsburgh?

Looking for a Royal Wedding Watch Party in Pittsburgh?

With the ceremony just hours away, several watch parties and live screenings of the nuptials have already sold out. But we found a few more places in Pittsburgh still taking guests whose invitations got lost in the mail.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Comments

Filmmaker David Bernabo Looks Beyond The Menu

Filmmaker David Bernabo Looks Beyond The Menu

He examines the visible yet unseen labor in the service industry with his documentary, "Eating & Working & Eating & Working."

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

Comments

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

Looking to switch up your physical activity now that it finally feels like spring? We found four sports you can play locally that you may never have considered.

Comments


Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Comments

Phipps Summer Show is Bizarre and Essential

Phipps Summer Show is Bizarre and Essential

At "Gardens of Sound and Motion," Phipps offers giants, living sculptures and more oddities.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Comments

Penguins’ Epitaph: So Close and Yet So Far Away

Penguins’ Epitaph: So Close and Yet So Far Away

To win the Stanley Cup Championship you have to be good, but you also have to be lucky. The Penguins weren’t enough of either this time.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As of a film, there are issues.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Deadpool 2

The 400-Word Review: Deadpool 2

Can the sequel to the lightning-in-a-bottle superhero hit live up to its predecessor?

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

It was always Ashley Watkins’ dream to have her grandfather perform her wedding ceremony — but a serious illness almost got in the way.

Comments

Puppy Love Leads to Happily Ever After

Puppy Love Leads to Happily Ever After

This groom-to-be took advantage of a photo shoot with the couple’s pup to get down on one knee — and have the big moment captured on film.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.

Comments

Highland Park House Tour Features Architectural Stunners

Highland Park House Tour Features Architectural Stunners

Included on this year’s tour is a 22-room Gilded Age mansion restored to perfection.

Comments