After a long week of studying and taking midterms, a break is much needed. Whether it’s with a couple of friends, or by yourself, taking the time to relax and have fun is important. Of the many possible ways you can spend your breaks, my personal favorite is going out to eat. Not only can you get a break from studying on campus, but also from campus food. Plus, this gives you an opportunity to explore more of the areas around Pittsburgh.
So I haven’t been here long enough to locate very many great food places, but the other day I was able find one! A few of my friends and I decided to try Sichuan Gourmet in Squirrel Hill for the first time. We got there at around six and the place was pretty crowded with college students and families. The environment was very active with students playing cards at their tables or families chatting with one another, while waiters were running around taking orders or carrying dishes. My friends and I were seated quickly (because we got lucky arriving there somewhat early). As usual, the waiter took our orders for drinks and left us to decide on our dishes. The menu had so many options to choose from and it was able to accommodate people with a variety of tastes and diets. There was even a “Pittsburgh Flavors” section, which had the typical Chinese takeout dishes.
When it came to deciding on what dishes my friends and I wanted to eat, our orders covered a wide range of flavors. My one friend who’s a vegetarian ordered the Mapo tofu (without meat), which consists of diced tofu cooked in a sauce made from spicy chili and beans. My two other friends ordered an appetizer of steamed vegetable dumplings, and the Home Style Beef Noodle Soup, which just has noodles and pieces of beef in a spicy beef broth. I ordered the braised beef tendon, which (as it sounds) has beef tendon covered in a sauce mixed with vegetables and slices of ham. All the non-soup dishes came with a cup of white rice.
After ordering, the first dish to arrive at our table was the dumpling appetizer. It had five dumplings on the plate with a dish of what looked like soy sauce. Everyone at the table agreed that the dumplings were very good, especially with the sauce which had a light salty taste. The vegetable filling was cooked just right, and the wonton was perfectly steamed. The only thing was that we wished we’d ordered another serving, because five dumplings was just not enough for us. After finishing our appetizer, it took maybe another forty minutes (fifty for my dish) for our food to arrive. That was a little annoying, especially since all of us were hungry. But when the food finally arrived, they arrived in large portions. All the meals were nicely presented in large glass bowls. For the non-soup dishes we were given serving spoons, and ate using our appetizer plates and chopsticks.
Overall I found the food to be very unique. Each meal had a spicy taste to it, which was not overbearing, but just right. My friends and I all tried each other’s meals and my favorite had to be the Mapo tofu. I had never tasted anything like it before and the chili sauce gave it such an interesting spicy flavor that easily balanced out with the white rice. The other meals I thought tasted fine, but my friends who ordered the soup found nothing particularly special about it. My beef tendon dish was great in that the sauce was a little salty-sweet, the tendon was chewy, and the vegetables were cooked just right. Eating the meal reminded me of the Filipino dishes my family cooked back home. I was actually surprised to find it on the menu, since I haven’t encountered too many restaurants that actually serve beef tendon.
If you like exposing yourself to different foods and flavors, definitely order something from Sichuan Gourmet. There are enough options for you to find something that you may like. Although I would have to say there is nothing really special about the restaurant environment itself, and the food does take awhile to arrive at your table (depending on what you order), it’s still a great place to catch up with friends and get away from campus.