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 Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
Top Dentists 2016

Top Dentists 2016

The Pittsburgh region's 368 premier dentists across 8 specialties.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

The longtime Pittsburgh television personality had been suffering from liver cancer.
Ladies Night: W Bowl Championship Football Game Comes to Pittsburgh

Ladies Night: W Bowl Championship Football Game Comes to Pittsburgh

Co-owned by Franco Harris, the W Bowl brings together players from across the Women’s Football Alliance in a fierce competition.
Pittsburgh Health & Fitness Start-Up Expands Nationwide

Pittsburgh Health & Fitness Start-Up Expands Nationwide

For more than a year, Fitt has helped Pittsburghers discover new, local ways to exercise and eat healthy. Now, the ‘Burgh-based start-up is expanding its reach to a dozen new cities.
Young Pirate Fan Star of the Show in Pirates' Marathon Win

Young Pirate Fan Star of the Show in Pirates' Marathon Win

Starling Marte's homer in the 18th inning beat the Washington Nationals Sunday but we wonder if the game's real MVP was actually in the stands.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
Top Dentists 2016

Top Dentists 2016

The Pittsburgh region's 368 premier dentists across 8 specialties.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

After his first taste of big-league ball, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow is ready for his close-up.
Edit Module

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

The longtime Pittsburgh television personality had been suffering from liver cancer.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Thyme and Place

A Thyme and Place

Old friends Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves reconnect via Facebook and collaborate on a historical cookbook.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

The local pubs that fly the Sharp Edge banner remain a favorite for top-notch beer and tantalizing grub.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

The Pirates did just enough in the days before the All-Star break to embrace the second half of the season with anticipation if not expectation.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

Reviews of "Ghostbusters" and "The Infiltrator," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Perfect Shot: Wedding Photographers’ Favorite Moments

The Perfect Shot: Wedding Photographers’ Favorite Moments

We asked these Pittsburgh wedding photographers to share some of their most-memorable photos — and the stories behind them.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

The new, larger location in Squirrel Hill features an expanded selection of handcrafted merchandise.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments