Pittsburgh Restaurant Scene
Big Burrito Group has been around for a good while now, even before the restaurant boom that started here in the city. If you have dined at Eleven, Soba, Casbah, Kaya, Umi, or any of the Mad Mex locations then you have dined with the Big Burrito Group. We have dined at all of them except Umi and have enjoyed them all, each one offers something different from the other. All of the restaurants are beautiful in design, and feature great service (Mad Mex is good most of the time) and varying styles of cuisine.
Tonight we are dining at Soba (D got a free entrée on her birthday, just send in your info to their website or fill out a form at any restaurant). On the outside it doesn’t look like much, actually looks like kind of an afterthought, but once you walk in you stop and stare. The cuisine is Pan-Asian and the design has hints of that, along with a beautiful bar, multiple dining levels, wall waterfall, and upstairs outdoor dining patio. It was a gorgeous day out and the patio was wide open so it was easy for us to pick where we wanted to be. The week we went to Soba the chef was offering the “Chuseok Tasting Menu”, Chuseok is a Korean celebration of the harvest festival of “the great middle of autumn”. It was 4 courses with the option to do a wine pairing, glad they were offering this because it made our decision easy. I will be the first to say, when it comes to Asian cuisines, I know very little. Between the use of ingredients, the traditional names, the preparations, all are hard to wrap your head around. The key is, have no fear to try new things, if you have a food allergy then tell the server so they can accommodate you. D and I love trying new food, and have no food allergies, perfect. D opted to for the wine pairings, I went with a cocktail the Bee Keeper (gin, honey, ginger, a few others) and it was delicious, highly recommend it.
The meal started with a trio of apps, a delicious pork dumpling, grilled cuttlefish salad, and dububuchim yangnyeomjang (yeah spend the next hour trying to pronounce that, good luck!). It was actually fried tofu with a deliciously spicy Korean style sauce. I will be the first to say I think tofu is worthless, I know vegetarians try to tell people “you won’t even notice the difference, its just like meat!” LIARS!!! The only reason I loved the tofu app was the sauce, tofu is just mush with no flavor. I’m sorry, but I had to get that off my chest. The dumpling and cuttlefish salad were great as well, great texture, spice and flavor combos.
Next up was a perfectly cooked piece of black cod served over rice cake noodle, baby bok choy, pear, anchovy and roasted nori; again this dish had great contrast of flavors and textures and the right amount of heat.
Next up, beef tip bulgogi with 3 styles of kim chi (kabocha squash, turnip greens, and cucumber) with a drizzle of pepper oil. As great as this dish was the spice got to us a little bit. We needed to find the server to get us some more water and chugged it before he could leave. Still we would order it again without hesitation.
The dessert was called songpyeon (again, good luck saying it properly) we were torn on this dish, it was a dense chewy rice cake with mild sweetness, filled dumpling style with sweet custard along with honey ice cream, mango sauce and pine/spinach “jelly”. We loved the ice cream, sauce and jelly but could do without the songpyeon, just kind of eh.
All in all we were very happy with this meal, we have had some amazing meals at Casbah, but some just ok ones at Eleven (Derek Stevens is an incredible chef, I don’t know if he is given as much freedom as he deserves) and Kaya. Casbah and Soba would be our recommendations of places to go in Big Burrito Group. We still have to try Umi, and I know that Mr. Shu (the chef) has a very loyal following and we will be getting our butts down there as soon as we can. So remember, just because you don’t know what something is doesn’t mean you should be afraid to eat it (just make sure you aren’t allergic to it). Order it, take a bite, maybe you won’t like it, but hey maybe it becomes your favorite food ever! Isn’t that worth the risk?
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5847 Ellsworth Avenue
Pgh, PA 15232
Valet parking available.