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Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 3 Recent Dishes I Loved

PM dining critic Hal B. Klein is eating seasonal salads, sushi and sandwiches.

photos by Hal B. Klein

Asparagus and Strawberry Salad Alta Via
The beauty of peak-season fruits and vegetables is that they pack a powerful punch of flavor. The challenge to enjoying them at their best is that window for maximum pleasure closes pretty quickly. To that end, I suggest you hop over to Alta Via in O’Hara Twp. as quickly as you can to indulge in executive chef Ben Sloan’s asparagus and strawberry salad, which currently is offered as a special. The sunny salad, enhanced with toasted sunflower seeds, pea shoots, basil and pickled ramps embraces the best flavors of spring. Pair that dish with one of my favorite pasta dishes on the menu, ricotta-and-spinach stuffed tortelli dressed with buttery melted onions and spek, and you’re in for a treat.  
46 Fox Chapel Rd. O’Hara Twp.; 402/406-3816, altaviapgh.com


Sushi and Bao at Mola
Mola, Alex Tang’s pan-Asian restaurant, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, primarily because of Tang’s commitment to serving excellent sushi. He’s working with a supplier at the Fulton Fish Market in New York, as well as Philadelphia-based purveyor Samuel and Sons, to bring high-quality fish to his East Liberty restaurant; Tang’s attention-to-detail in his rice preparation also is laudable. I’ve been digging the fish for a few months now, but here’s something that surprised me on my most recent visit — the chicken bao is a nice little treat. Tang says the bun is prepared from his wife’s recipe; it’s wrapped around exceptionally crispy oven-baked chicken, slaw and sriracha mayo.
6018 Penn Ave., East Liberty; 412/365-6688, themolafish.com


Breakfast Sandwich at Pear and the Pickle
I’m obsessed with classic New York City breakfast sandwiches. They’re hard to get right because almost everyone tries to overcomplicate things. However, the key to a great egg sandwich is embracing simplicity, and they honor that ideal at Pear and the Pickle in Troy Hill. It starts with a gently toasted potato roll (poppy-seed Kaiser is my roll of choice but this works quite nicely, too) and an over-easy egg. You have your choice of cheese; you want American because it melts the best. Perhaps you'll top it with perfectly cooked, house-cured bacon (but you certainly don't have to). You can get a slice of tomato to add acidity, but I prefer a dash of ketchup — I grew up in New York; it’s a regional thing but trust me, it’s worth doing as the tang of the ketchup intermingling with the richness of the runny yolk is all you need to enhance the flavor of the uncomplicated sandwich.
1800 Rialto St., Troy Hill; 412/322-0333, pearandpickle.com

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