Pittsburgh: Soba

A friend and I had been talking for weeks about going to try theĀ Bibimbap dish at Soba; a member of the relatively pricey BigBurrito group in Pittsburgh. Soba serves a wide range of Asian food: Korean, Thai, Japanese and Burmese.

The interior of Soba is swish and smooth with dim lighting. From the moment you walk in, the service is excellent.

For starters, we decided on Spicy Tuna maki, and the Lobster maki sushi with mango and a salad. Upon reflection, we probably should have tried something other than sushi as well! Other appetizers on the menu were mushroom dumplings and crab cakes. The tuna in the sushi rolls was fresh and delicious, but the avocado in the sushi roll overpowered the delicate taste of the raw fish. The spicy sauce under the sushi rolls was fine, but there was also a sweet soy sauce drizzled on, and snippets of tough spring onion as a garnish, which didn’t do anything for the tuna.

The lobster sushi was prettily presented, but had dollops of mayonnaise/aioli on top, which I didn’t think was necessary. Sadly, the lobster was overcooked and chewy. The mango gave a sweetness that complemented the lobster, but I didn’t get any pistachio taste.

The salad was the biggest disappointment of the night: Burmese Leaf Salad which sounded delightful and palate-cleansing. It looked good, with cabbage, cucumber, cherry tomatoes topped with (I think) tiny deep-fried onion rings. It was far too salty, which came from either the dressing, or the powder on the onion rings.

The main course was Bi Bim Bap, beautifully served in a dolsot stone pot: rice topped with tender chopped flank steak, octopus, a poached egg, chopped vegetables and shiitake mushrooms. The rice stuck at the bottom was nutty and crispy, fluffy and light on top, the steak was cooked perfectly and everything apart from the shiitake mushrooms tasted good (the mushrooms were pickled or vinegared in some way which was very sour for the otherwise-mild dish.) The gochujang/red chilli paste was nice and packed a punch, with a slightly sweet finish.

Overall, a nice looking restaurant, with friendly and helpful staff, but for me, overpriced for what you get, and the salty salad was a disappointment. We didn’t have dessert, so I can’t comment, but they did sound tempting: classics-with-a-twist like a banana split, with sesame ice cream. Next time…