Baum Boulevard is not the first place I'd look for a good restaurant. It's the home of car dealerships and gas stations sprinkled with the occasional KFC or Wendy's. It doesn't quite feel unsafe, but just a little sleazy. I didn't see any particular reason to spend more time there than necessary.
But friends had recommended the Orient Kitchen as the "best Chinese food in Pittsburgh." Some even went so far as to call it the "most authentic Chinese food in Pittsburgh." They found my weakness. As a boring suburban white kid raised on Applebee's and Max and Erma's, I'll take any excuse to try to experience a little culinary culture.
Alas, I blew it. I ordered spicy chicken and shrimp with dried basil. It sounds tasty and it is, but a little boring. It was well spiced, don't get me wrong, and the basil leaves added an interesting texture, but I don't think I'd go out of my way to call it the "best" of anything.
Apparently, as I learned by talking to friends afterwards and reading online reviews, Orient Kitchen excels at delivering unusual dishes. Steamed fish, salt and pepper squid, and "crispy milk with spicy basil chicken" (chicken and sweet custard in fried dough) are some of the restaurant's unique specialties.
Orient Kitchen doesn't specialize in sushi, but they do it well; the spider roll and rainbow roll compared well to the sushi I've eaten at Nakama. They were colorful and had a good taste, including a nice mix of textures (especially the spider roll, which gets its name from the crispy fried soft-shell crab within). They weren't quite up to the level of Sushi Too's excellent rolls, but the prices were reasonable.
Sort of like the rest of Orient Kitchen. They're not flashy: the décor is sparse and the service occasionally takes a little while, but they are friendly. They also offer some nice touches, such as the complimentary hot tea served with water. Future visits will tell if their more unusual dishes deserve the "best Chinese food in Pittsburgh" label. In the meantime, if I find myself on that barren stretch of land known as Baum Boulevard, I'd be glad to stop in again.
Restaurant type: Chinese (Cantonese, I think, but I really don't know)
How to get there: It's a few blocks from campus, at 4808 Baum Blvd.
Price for an entrée: $10-15
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