I’m back home! This is both exciting (my own bed!) and sad (I already miss Seattle). I have a feeling I’ll be back at some point, though, and I got through pretty much my entire Seattle Wish List/Bucket List. I’m very pleased with this trip. 🙂
Before I even knew about the trip to Seattle, I was invited to attend a chef’s tasting event at Pan Asian restaurant in Lawrenceville. Having this event tonight was probably the best plan ever – it ensured that I stayed awake and didn’t further destroy my sleep schedule, and it also guaranteed that I’d have at least something to eat when I got home and I’d have time to decompress and relax a little with a friend. Sign me up!
We arrived a couple minutes late, so the small plates/starters were being plated as we found our seats. Chef Josh Ross and GM Callise Blandi showcased three different small plates for us to try.
One of the biggest crowdpleasers seemed to be the Tempura shrimp in a spicy “dynamite” sauce. The shrimp was lightly fried and tossed in a not-too-spicy sauce and served atop a drizzle of eel sauce. Everyone around us liked it a lot. I liked it as well, but my favorite small plate was the wok-blistered Shishito peppers with brussels sprouts, tossed in a pomegranate soy sauce.
Shishito peppers must be my new thing, because this is the second time this week I’ve had a plate of them at a restaurant (the other time being at The Whale Wins in Seattle). While the peppers were delicious, the real standout in this dish was the brussels sprouts. At the beginning of the night, the brussels were small and served whole, but as the staff brought out refills, the cooking method seemed to change – the later sprouts were larger and halved before being tossed in the pomegranate soy sauce, which caused them to have more flavor than the whole ones. Both versions were great, and I’d absolutely get the Shishitos and brussels as an appetizer.
The third small plate is actually listed as a bowl on the Pan menu – Hangar Stir-Fry. I was a fan of this plate/bowl as well – it wasn’t overly-sauced, and I liked that the peppers were not over-cooked. The steak was tasty as well.
As we finished up our small plates, a server came around with samples of the Kuro Buta Belly – Sichuan-braised pork belly served atop a puree of Japanese yams, carrots, and ginger.
Despite my love of bacon and my tolerance for ham and pork, I’ve never been big on pork belly – the texture has always bugged me; it’s too fatty for my liking. But Pan’s preparation has me rethinking all that. The pork belly was nicely seared and crisp on the outside, and it wasn’t too fatty on the inside. Plus, the flavors were incredible. The Sichuan spices paired nicely with the warmth of the yams, carrots, and ginger. The pork belly is probably tied with the Shishito peppers and brussels sprouts as my favorite dish of the night.
After the pork belly, the servers brought out one more dish – a maki roll duo.
On the left is the Angry Snapper maki roll – spicy tuna, snapper, tempura, cucumber, avocado, tobiko, and gochujang topped with a sliver of jalapeño. The maki on the right is called the Lobster Monkey, and it is comprised of a tempura banana and avocado roll topped with lobster salad and a smoked habanero-mango puree. Both rolls were tasty, and both of them had elements that surprised me. For the Angry Snapper, I was surprised at how perfect the snapper was. I don’t often order raw fish sushi (I opt for veggie sushi and/or eel, which is cooked), but the snapper was delightful. With the Lobster Monkey, I was surprised by the tempura banana – I just was not expecting that. But both rolls pulled off all their components, and the tempura banana in particular was my favorite part of the maki rolls.
The longer we sat in the restaurant admiring the open kitchen and the abundance of natural lighting towards the back, the more the servers came around plying us with drinks (not that we minded).
The drinks on the left were whiskey-based and spiced. They tasted like fall, which is appropriate since yesterday was the first day of the new season. The drink on the right was made with plum wine and merlot, and it tasted like a cross between Hawaiian Punch and cough syrup, depending on who you ask. If you ask me, cough syrup… but maybe that’s just because I liked the whiskey drink more. If you ask my friend, it tasted exactly like Hawaiian Punch. Given my lack of sleep and my absence of good judgement (based on the jet lag), if I were you, I’d trust my friend’s assessment over mine.
All told, we had a great night at Pan, and I look forward to returning.
Pan Asian Restaurant
3519 Butler Street (Lawrenceville)
PanAsianPGH on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the chef’s tasting event at Pan Asian Restaurant, but I was not compensated for (or even asked to write) this post. All opinions are mine.