Hotspots: Where We're Eating in May
This month, we'll be at Udipi Cafe, Bar Marco, Shiloh Grill and Kous Kous Café.
If you aren’t part of the burgeoning dosa appreciation movement, you will be after sampling Udipi’s mastery of the form. Impossibly thin and incomparably savory, dosas are giant crepes from south India, where all types of beans, grains and rice are soaked, ground, blended and transformed. Part of Udipi’s charm, besides the enormous menu that lists traditional fare, is that it’s located down a winding road parallel to the highway above; the anticipation builds, as it should, for the almighty dosa.
4141 Old William Penn Highway, Monroeville; 412/373-5581, udipicafepittsburgh.com
The Italian cooking credo — quality ingredients, limited human involvement — holds true with frico, a magnificent snack served at this new Strip District spot. The treat (originally the frugal cook’s way of using cheese scraps) comprises a wedge of savory pie, borne of potatoes, baked in a skillet loaded with bubbling Montasio and melty leeks. Bar Marco’s inventive menu features a dozen more small plates and expertly mixed cocktails (a tequila gimlet with lime and basil, for example).
2216 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/471-1900, barmarcopgh.com
Venture to the Harris Grill’s sister restaurant atop Mount Washington and marvel at the interior’s uncanny resemblance to the Shadyside original. Intrepid travelers are amply rewarded for getting up the hill when a piping-hot cinderblock of lasagna arrives at their table. The so-wrong-it’s-right marriage of breaded eggplant, pesto, cheese and a slightly spicy tomato sauce shows that noodles aren’t necessary. Also recommended: fried local cheese curds, Jamaican jerk-chicken tacos and the Greek salad.
123 Shiloh St., Mt. Washington; 412/431-4000, theshilohgrill.com
Kous Kous Café
Like plucking the strings of an oud, the Moroccan chef singles out notes of saffron, anise, orange blossom and mint — complex, aromatic flavors. The melody created by chef Abdel Khila at this tiny café is spellbinding — from the house salad’s just-right sweet mint vinaigrette to the zaalouk (a bonfire-smoky roasted-eggplant dip). Even the couscous is bound to impress. Khila’s mother, who’s responsible for a subtle trio of cookies, is clearly an influence in her son’s kitchen.
665 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon; 412-563-5687, kouskouscafe.com
Lisa Young, Owner, Sugar Mama Cakes
Pastry chef Lisa Young is the owner of Sugar Mama Cakes. You can find her sweet treats at the Pittsburgh Public Market.
Pomegranate buttercream. It’s this pretty dusty-rose color, and tastes so tart and delicious.
Dessert you entertain with at home:
French macarons — say, Nutella, Salted Caramel and Strawberry Balsamic.
Size of cookbook collection:
It fills up an IKEA bookshelf that has 16 cubbies. My favorite dessert cookbook is Dessert Fourplay by Johnnie Iuzzini, the judge on “Top Chef: Just Desserts.”
Most unique cake:
I’m from Thailand, and I ask my mom to bring me tons of tea leaves when she visits so that I can capture that flavor in my Thai iced-tea cake.
Best dessert you’ve ever had:
A hazelnut tart from WD50 in New York, a place known for its molecular gastronomy. It tasted perfect, and it was technically amazing; the filling was incredibly smooth.
Sugar Mama Cakes, 412/512-0455, sugarmamacakes.com
— Kate Chynoweth