I am visiting my parents in Pittsburgh from Los Angeles and wanted to treat them to dinner last night. My mother suggested we try Cafe Asia, a pan-Asian restaurant on Forbes Ave. in Squirrel Hill. Even though the place has been around for awhile, no one we knew had eaten there before and I did not find anything about it on Chowhound. But the reviews (Pittsburgh Magazine, etc. ) have been favorable so we decided to give it a whirl. Here are some impressions:
MENU: Although pan-Asian in concept, the menu really revolves around SE Asian cuisine with a couple of Japanese-inspired dishes, maybe a Korean dish or two. We ordered two appetizers - chicken satay for my parents ($5). They report it was tasty, Good for its type, maybe not particularly distinctive.
Much more interesting was the Thai betel nut appetizer ($8). Served on a series of round plates and bowls were about 14 betel leaves, a selection of chopped limes, red onions, toasted coconut, bitingly hot peppers, and peanuts, with a bowl of sweetish/sourish sauce. The point was to fold the leaf, spoon in some of the chopped goodies, dip into the sauce and place in the mouth. The dish was both refreshing and varied in texture and tastes. It should be tried for the sheer novelty alone. Oddly, although I live in LA, a restaurant mecca with all manner of SE Asian restaurants and selections, I have never seen this particular dish anywhere but here.
For entrees, mom ate a beef salad - tasty and refreshing.
My dad and I split a Vietnamese yellow curry and a Vietnamese basil fried rice. Both good, the curry was the more interesting of the dishes. A creamy and coconutty flavorful sauce, tofu and sweet potatoes offered nicely contrasting textures.
Overall, for the money (three of us had two appetizers, three entrees, and one iced tea for just under $50 pre-tip), this place is a good deal. Service was both friendly and brisk. Portions were just right - not enough to feel unpleasantly stuffed but enough to be satisfied and head down the street for a Coldstone or a Baskin Robbins if so inclined.
I'd be interested in other's impressions if any. Thanks!