Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: Recent Dishes That I Loved
PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein says clam soup, wings and Bhutanese cuisine have his attention this month.
Zuppa di Vongole at Dish Osteria and Bar
I could wax poetic about everything I ate earlier this week at Dish Osteria on the South Side. Rigatoni alla scamorza affumicata; dreamy, always so, so dreamy. Spaghetti alla bottarga di tonno rosso; oh, those sun-dried cherry tomatoes, how they popped like a sweet, warm sunset. The dish that I’m still tingling about, however, is zuppa di vongole, the restaurant’s celebrated clam soup, which weaves its way on and off the menu throughout the year. It was the first time I had it in months, and the luscious tomato and clam broth, made lusty with threads of saffron, felt like fortification for the forthcoming crisp autumn nights. I dig the contrasting textures of the meaty, chewy little cockles and the al dente pebbles Sardinian fregola; it is a perfect bowl of soup.
128 S. 17th St., South Side; 412/390-2012, dishosteria.com
Wings at Larder of East End
I’m aiming to enjoy as much outdoor dining time as I can before the inevitable blast of winter drives us all indoors for a few months. I’m digging the situation at Larder of East End, where one can delight in a variety of top-notch beers from one of Pittsburgh’s foundational craft brewers, East End Brewing Company, while snacking on easygoing dishes such as brisket sandwiches and smoked chicken-chorizo hot dogs from one of Pittsburgh’s top chefs, Justin Severino. The chicken wings are a standout; smoked and then crisped, they’re everything you want from a wing. Buffalo-style, with Frank’s Red Hot and butter, is a classic worth ordering, as are the harissa — dressed with za’atar and apricot honey, they’re sweet, spicy and herbaceous.
147 Julius St., Larimer; larderpittsburgh.com
Phaksha Paa at Everest Kitchen
I’m working on a story for our December issue that looks at how food connects members of the region’s refugee populations to both their communities and to the greater community of Pittsburgh. One of the most exciting parts of this research has been visiting the various Nepali restaurants in the South Hills. They’re run by Bhutanese refugees who over the past decade have settled here, and the food they’re cooking is terrific. The menus at the restaurants mostly feature Nepali dishes such as momo and chow mein, but on weekends Everest Kitchen in Brentwood also offers a small Bhutanese list. Of those dishes, phaksha paa is a standout and something you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere in Pittsburgh. Thick slices of pork belly are cooked with hot peppers, cheese, butter and greens and served over rice. The cheese-based sauce offers all the indulgence of hearty dining, yet is balanced enough that it eats without feeling weighty; the sauce also somewhat mutes the fiery punch of the chilis.
4042 Saw Mill Run Blvd., Brentwood; 412/207-9638, everestkitchenpa.com
Goodbye (for now), Fet Fisk
Fet Fisk, my favorite new pop-up series of 2019, bid its farewell with a fun-filled feast called “The Last Last Supper” at the Penn Hebron Garden Club in Penn Hills. The 183-year-old building, with its wide, wood-beamed roof and charming historical details, provided the perfect setting to set the nautical crew off to their next (to be determined) adventure. Briny oysters set the stage for an evening of delicious conversation; creamy mac n’ cheese atop a bed of garlicky broccolini ate both indulgent and nutritious; a pickle plate provided vibrant palate cleansing. The star of the show was Le Burger Queen, superior quality, hand-chopped beef tartare, secret sauce, onion and pickles nestled in sourdough. Bon voyage, ye mighty sailors of the culinary seas.