Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 3 Recent Dishes I Loved
PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein says Sichuan smashed eggplants, smoked chicken wings and a cornbread dessert have his attention.
Smashed peppers with eggplant at Sichuan Gourmet (Squirrel Hill)
The Squirrel Hill location of Sichuan Gourmet has been a steady, if not always thrilling, restaurant since it opened in 2011. Things have tightened up considerably over the past few months. Ownership refined the restaurant’s menu, and it quickly is becoming a must-go destination for Sichuan cuisine in Pittsburgh. Over the winter, I was enamored with its fish fillet in pickled vegetables soup, and my new favorite dish is smashed seasoning eggplant with hot peppers. Here, wedges of steamed eggplant are steamed and then bathed in sesame oil, and topped with a blend of minced and marinated peppers. It’s a dish that’s savory, spicy and luxurious, and something that I’ve found myself craving a few days after having it.
1900 Murray Ave, Squirrel Hill; 412/521-1313, sichuan-gourmet.com
Wings at Larder of East End
Justin and Hilary Prescott Severino’s new concept, Larder of East End, takes a significantly more casual approach to dining than their Spanish-focused Morcilla and recently closed Cure. At Larder, they nestle into East End Brewing Company’s Larimer brewhouse (the two businesses are separate, but the cuisine at Larder is decidedly beer-friendly). Among several very tasty dishes on the opening menu, Severino’s wings stood out as my early must-get. Chicken wings are slow-cooked over maple wood in the restaurant’s smoker and then they are deep fried prior to being served Buffalo Style (Franks Red Hot, butter) or dry-rubbed (za’atar, apricot honey). Both styles are crispy, slightly smokey and hard to stop eating after just one serving.
147 Julius St., Larimer; larderpittsburgh.com
Shortbread dessert at Spork
Spork in Bloomfield has grown over the past three years into one of Pittsburgh’s most ambitious and outstanding restaurants. It recently introduced a vegetarian tasting menu which will feature produce from its adjacent farmette (for more on that, be on the lookout for my farmer/chef story in Pittsburgh Magazine’s August issue). Among the highlights of the 6-course meal was pastry chef Kevi Lee Furgason’s shortbread dessert, which featured cornbread, stewed cherry compote, basil ice cream and almond crumb. It hit a nice spot between sweet and savory, with the toasty notes in the cornbread and the herbaceous of the ice cream balancing the sweet-tart cherry compote.
5433 Penn Ave., Bloomfield; 412/441-1700, sporkpittsburgh.com
photo by laura petrilla
Two Events that Have My Attention
Jamilka Borges, executive chef of Independent Brewing Company/Hidden Harbor/Lorelei, has worked tirelessly over the past for years to build 412 Food Rescue’s annual Sunday Supper fundraiser into one of the most anticipated culinary events of the year. This year, Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2018 Chef of the Year has recruited an all-star team of nationally celebrated chefs to join her for the feast: Edouardo Jordan (Junebaby and Salare,; Seattle), Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye, Henbit, TLV; Austin), Kwame Onwuachi (Kith/Kin; Washington D.C.), Alison Trent (Ysabel; Los Angeles), Tim Ma (American Son; Washington D.C.) and IBC/HH/Loreli pastry chef Dianne DeStefano. Sommelier and author Sarah Thomas (Le Bernardin, New York City) returns to Pittsburgh to curate the wine list for the event, which will take place on Oct. 6 at This is RED.
Meanwhile, look for bartenders on a boat as the Pittsburgh chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild sets sail with the “Steel Tahn Tiki Cruise” on Aug. 23. The fundraiser for Rivers of Steel’s STEM-based education programs for students throughout southwestern Pennsylvania features a three-hour tiki tour with a cadre of Pittsburgh’s finest bartenders, as well as tropically inspired cuisine by Simon Chough of Soju and exotica and surf rock sounds curated by DJ Zombo. Bonus: it’s fireworks night at PNC Park.