Sunday, August 28, 2011


This month, mama and papa TOP surprised PID and I with a visit to the 'burgh for my birthday! A welcomed treat with added stress -- their gift to me was dinner on them at a restaurant of my choice.

I'm used to choosing restaurants on a whim!  So I was under a bit of pressure to find a place that would be worthy of the folks who so graciously blessed me with a passionate love of all things food. Part of me wanted to badly to take them to Spoon -- one of my favorite places in the city.  They'd already enjoyed another of my favorites, Willow.  So I went with a restaurant choice that was new to all of us and we all ventured to Shadyside to eat at Soba!

Papa TOP and PID are tellin' me they're too hungry to wait for pictures!

Shockingly, given the amount of time PID and I spend in Shadyside, neither of us had ever dined at Soba.  I have always been a fan of the Big Burrito Restaurant Group so I was very excited to give this place a go!

Soba is located amongst the eclectic shops and pubs of Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Perfect for a pre or post-dinner stroll and even better for a post dinner night cap. The restaurant offers two floors of seating with indoor and outdoor options and an attractive lounge surrounding the bar for a very versatile dining experience. The decor is modern yet comfortable and really sets the mood for a delicious dinner out.

The four of us agreed to start with the calamari:

Soba's Calamari
The aioli was perfect: not too tasteless, but not too heavy.  It married nicely with the fresh flavor of the cilantro and the crisp of the calamari.

From there, we were torn between the amazing looking options on their menu. In my opinion, the size of a menu can make or break a restaurant.  Too many options and guests feel anxiety trying to choose, then often spend the evening dealing with food envy as they watch their companions swoon over the option they almost went with!  Too small of a menu and guests might feel as though the kitchen is limited and they are being forced to make a decision.  At Soba, the menu was just right. A variety of small plates, entrees, desserts and even wine, but not so much that we could not figure out what to do.

PID went with the Korean Flank Steak. Seared to perfection and served on an outstandingly surprising shrimp pancake bed, this dish was one that will keep us coming back (I can't wait to order it for myself next time!).  The fresh peach kim chi was a welcomed addition and provided for a cool surprise between bites.

Korean Flank Steak

 Papa TOP ordered the pork tenderloin.  One thing that I love about Soba is that the dishes and menu are constantly changing to complement the seasonal fruits and vegetables. His pork came with fresh broccolini and zucchini -- perfect for summer.  Checking their menu today it looks like this dish comes with corn and potatoes which I'm sure would be delicious. My favorite part of papa TOP's dish was the pork belly which literally melted in your mouth.  Definitely worth ordering!

Pork tenderloin with pork belly

Mama TOP ordered the Pad Thai.  It was a great mash-up of chicken, shrimp and tofu and the flavor of the sauce was wonderful. The helping was quite large and the heaping pile of cilantro on top didn't really add much to the dish and mama TOP couldn't quite finish her meal. We took it home and ate it for lunch the next day and it just didn't have the same flavor. Though we didn't hate it, I think - given the opportunity - we wouldn't order the Pad Thai here again.

Pad Thai

I was in the mood for fresh sushi, so I went with two small plates to make up my meal!  I was inspired by the chopsticks and stone holder set on the table before we arrived.  The Spicy Tuna Maki and Yellowtail Sashimi were absolutely delicious.  Though the maki didn't stand out to me as anything too different from the other sushi restauarnts in town, the sashimi went above and beyond my expectations. The watermelon carpaccio and jalepeno rings were a surprising pair that added huge flavor to this tiny dish. I definitely recommend it!

Spicy Tuna Maki

Yellowtail Sashimi

Three out of four of us were beyond pleased with our main dishes, and though our bellies were nearly full - we couldn't help but give a few desserts a try.  Every dessert is $8 which makes it much easier to decide on your favorite without worrying about the price.

The Chocolate Pretzel Stack was by far my favorite.  The salty-sweet flavors were a perfect combination and the crunch of the pretzel chips with the smooth texture of the cream was an amazing contrast.

Chocolate Pretzel Stack

We also ordered the Lemongrass Pot-du-Creme to give ourselves a variety between fruit and chocolate tastes. The strawberry-tamarind sorbet shined in this dish -- the cool bite added a kick of flavor which hit you right in the back corners of your mouth.

Lemongrass Pot-du-Creme

Finally, I received a welcome birthday surprise with a candle smack in the middle of a trio of ice creams made in-house. The chocolate, strawberry and lime ice creams were by far some of the best I've ever had. I found it pretty difficult to share the strawberry with anyone, but I found a way.

Strawberry, Lime and Chocolate Ice Cream Trio

Restaurant Information:
Address: 5847 Ellsworth Ave
Phone: 412-362-5656
Hours:    Sunday -Thursday, 5p-10p
              Friday/Saturday, 5p-11p
Reservations: Recommended.  We used Open Table!

Cliffs Notes:
The parents TOP generously took care of this meal in honor of my CENSORED birthday, but I can give you a run down without the drinks, tip and tax!
Appetizer:     Calamari @ $9
Entrees:         Korean Flank Steak @ $28
                     Pork Tenderloin @ $25
                     Pad Thai @ $19
                     Spicy Tuna Maki @ $9
                     Yellowtail Sashimi @ $14
Dessert:        Chocolate Pretzel Stack @ $8
                    Lemongrass Pot-du-Creme @ $8
                    Ice Cream Trio @$8

Overall Opinion: 
Soba was definitely my type of place.  A fusion of Asian and American flavors combined with a very beautiful atmosphere made it the perfect choice for a birthday dinner. Though the Pad Thai was a little lackluster, the desserts were impeccable and the service was fantastic. After dinner we took a walk down Ellsworth and grabbed a few cocktails at a nearby pub which made for a perfect evening with PID and the Parents. Thank you to Mama and Papa TOP for a wonderful birthday and thank you to Soba for a delicious meal. 

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