Rose Tea Café: A Diamond in the Rough Apr 22, 2009 2:27 pm | by Anson Wang
Given a large pile of coal of unknown size, how long will it take you to find a diamond? How much crap would you have to dig through before you finally find that jewel? It took my two years and the help of some internet searches. After sophomore year, right about when I was contemplating taking CMU hostage with dinosaurs, I realized that I did not like any restaurant in Pittsburgh. Surely, in this great gray city of mine, there has to be something able to satisfy my tastes. And so I began to search, every neighborhood, every restaurant. It wasn't long before I came upon this Taiwanese eatery.
I hope you, as the reader, appreciate how hard it is for me to actually like a restaurant enough to write about it. Somehow, like a flower growing from a pot of dirt, Rose Tea Café has flourished valiantly from the dark depths of Pittsburgh cuisine. Not only are its bubble teas amongst the best I've had, the dishes are simply tremendous. I didn't know Pittsburgh was capable of producing any ethnic food even remotely authentic, let alone Chinese food. After suffering through the crap of Lulu's and Orient Express, RTC was not only refreshing, it was genuinely good. What? Lulu's and Orient Express bad? Yes, if you disagree, you are wrong. I'll touch on those two in another review.
You might say, "Oh, great food reviewer with your mighty palette, even if this place exists, whatever shall I order once I find this treasure?" For an appetizer, the scallion pancake with egg is a twist on a classic snack I've had as a child. Crispy layers of scallion pancake intertwined with soft scrambled egg make for an excellent starter. Dip into soy sauce for more flavor. Avoid the scallion pancake with beef, however; the beef comes off to be cheap and almost crumbly. Now that you've ordered the appetizer, you have a choice. You can go with a family style meal or order individual meals. I highly suggest you go with the family style, simply because it allows you to taste more, and trust me, you want to taste as much as possible.
If you choose to go family style, I suggest the Beef with Chinese hot pepper, a personal favorite of mine. Thin strips of beef are sautéed with hot green peppers for a dish that is as spicy as is tasty. I also highly recommend the Taiwanese Chunk Chicken, whose subtleness and depth of flavor won me over. The chow fun never disappoints, and I find that their chicken curry is also growing on me. While the curry sauce lacks any authentic tastes, it has a solid forthright flavor, combined with the flavors from vegetables and tender chicken pieces and you have Chinese curry.
If you're not interested in family style dining, stick with the specials. These dishes are typically served over rice, with diced cabbage and a marinated egg. I like to eat lean meat, so I found the braised pork too fatty, but some would argue that the fat is the best part. The fried chicken cutlet is a Chinese take on a familiar food, but it definitely doesn't taste like anything you've had in American restaurants. The curry chicken and beef are both just personal sized portions of the family style dish. The braised chicken cutlet is my personal favorite: juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and smothered in sauce. These dishes tend to be pretty filling as well as easy on the wallet, perfect for lunch or dinner.
Of course, while you dine there, be sure to order one of the many flavors of bubble tea they have in stock. I'm a purist, so I usually go for the traditional Black Tea with Milk, but feel free to experiment with all types of exotic flavors like mango or lychee. They all taste great.
Long story short: Next time you go to Squirrel Hill, do yourself a favor and go to the Rose Tea Café.
Rose Tea Café (412-421-2238) is located on 5874 Forbes Ave.
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