Two quick reviews -
A Filipino restaurant hidden off the main commercial part of Butler St. in Lawrenceville. It's apparently been around for 15 years, but a Thai restaurant chain has taken over management.
The room is very pleasant, with a beautiful garden next door. The service was quite slow, but it was apparent that they were understaffed and being hammered. (A recent write-up in a newspaper apparently increased their Tuesday night traffic five-fold and the two waitresses were frazzled.) Our server was very apologetic for the service problems and didn't charge us for the corkage fee ($1 a person) and comped us a dessert and drink.
Unfortunately, the food didn't live up to the reviews. My friend and I both ordered the Taste of La Filipiniana for $14.95 each. It included:
Soup - Unknown - a very tasty, yet quite spicy, broth with mushrooms, lemongrass, and galangal. It was definitely more Thai than Filipino, but it was quite tasty and hopefully a sign of good things to come.
Main course - consisted of smallish portions of each chicken adobo, beef calderata, and shrimp curry. Unfortunately, all three were quite bland, tasting as if they were prepared by a high school cafeteria. No spices, unidentifiable gravy covering each of the dishes, just tasting slightly different on each. No spice. And just a hint of coconut in the shrimp curry that differentiated it from a watery chicken gravy. Bland, bland, bland. In fairness, the beef and chicken were unbelievable moist and well cooked, but they hadn't absorbed any flavor from the sauce. (Not that there was much to begin with.) Definitely a disappointment.
Desserts - I was pretty full and didn't try my friend's flan. I ordered the kasava cake which was OK. Nothing great.
I know it doesn't sound like a glowing review, but other things on the menu may be very good. (The soup was actually really good.) To mike things easier, a coupon on the website saves you $5 on lunch and $10 on dinners there, and food off of the Thai side of the menu might be very good.
5321 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201-2623
On Friday, I sampled Abay Restaurant - Pittsburgh's only Ethiopian restaurant.
The room was nice, but simple, with a half-dozen or so traditional Ethiopian tables in front and about 25 regular tables further back.
Service was pleasant, speedy, and made several good recommendations and knew the menu quite well.
We ordered the Combination Sampler for three, Ye' Abesha Dabo, and Vegetarian Sambussa.
The Ye' Abesha Dabo was simply an orange baked bread with some simple spices in it. It was tasty, but needed something to go with it. It was also a little on the dry side.
The Vegetarian Sambussas were tasty, but incredibly oily, and kind of small for the price.
For the Combination Platter for 3, you get to choose four entrees, which are served on a large piece of injera with one rolled up on the side. (We got another serving and there was no charge for it.)
First, the injera was a awful color of grey, vs. the whiter versions I've had in NYC. Plus, it was a little thicker, but the flavor was fine and the extra heft made it easier to scoop up the goods.
We tried the following dishes.
Zilzil Tibs - strips of meat cooked with herbs and onions - it was tasty but tasted like fajita meat. Served with a pepper sauce that was good - alot like Harissa.
Doro Minchet Abish - shredded chicken cooked up with herbs - again - quite tasty, but nothing inherently Ethiopian tasting.
Azifah - whole lentils with spices. Quite tasty, and particularly good when dipped in the -
Misir Wat - a red lentil paste similar in consistency to hummus. Very, very good and pretty mcuh used as a comdiment for the other three entrees.
The price for all the food we could bare to eat and a decent amount to take home was $30 excluding tip.
130 S. Highland Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
For my next time in town, places that I must try:
1) Cafe Kolache in Beaver, PA (about a half hour west of Pittsburgh) - A Czech bakery serving sweet and savoury kolaches. They also have a website:
The address, for those inclined to check it out:
402 Third Street
Beaver, PA 15009
2) Sarajevo in Avalon, PA - A Bosnian restaurant, with the hope of finding a decent source of boureks in Pittsburgh.
538 California Ave
Avalon, PA 15202
3) Soup Sega! at the Bulgarian-Macedonian Cultural Center - read Amy G's great review below. They don't operate this in the summer but I'll be there in the fall!
449 West 8th Avenue
West Homestead, PA 15120