La Gourmandine will take over the former Penn Avenue Fish spot on Forbes Avenue
A cardinal rule instructed routinely in journalism school is to never bury the lede, so getting right to it: We have two words for you — sushi doughnut.
That’s as fair a place to start as any in the discussion of Mount Everest Sushi, a tiny little takeout shop with a few dine-in tables in the shadow of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health building in Oakland.
Rest assured that the sushi doughnut is not some sort of a weird bastardization of raw fish, glaze, jelly and jimmies that’s endorsed by Homer Simpson’s Japanese alter ego, Mr. Sparkle.
Rather, it is simply a clever and eye-popping presentation of gorgeous ruby red tuna, pink-orange salmon and bright green avocado, sprinkled with sesame seeds (more like a sushi bagel then?) with the rice underneath fashioned into the properly round shape ($6.75 for two).
The trend made some headlines nationally last year and appears to have landed in Pittsburgh at Mount Everest, courtesy of chef and proprietor Kelsang Gyalsen, who brings his expertise from Plum Pan Asian Kitchen in East Liberty.
A little cultural interplay is a hallmark of the menu, which also has sesame tuna and black bean in Vietnamese-style steamed buns and miso tuna on Indian naan bread.
The sushi tacos ($6.50 for two) are again loaded with beautiful chunks of tuna and salmon and a “salsa” of red pepper and carrot. The crispy, crunchy shell provides an excellent textural balance to the fish. The only problem is that the hard corn shell breaks apart after a bite and it’s kind of a mess to eat afterward. It might prove a little easier to eat as sushi nachos.
These are all in addition to sushi platters, specialty rolls, standard maki rolls and a poke tuna bowl that the author’s wife went nuts over ($8.75). It is inexpensive, fast and clearly well prepared.
Now, the name of the place. Naturally, it implies the zenith or highest possible quality of sushi, and it doesn’t disappoint in that regard. But given sushi’s Japanese origin and Everest’s location in the landlocked, seafood-free Tibetan Himalayas several thousand miles away, the juxtaposition is kind of hilarious and could spawn an entire line of geographically head-scratching restaurants.
A few ideas for deep-pocketed investors willing to part with a few shekels: Kilimanjaro Pierogies, Eiffel Tower Pizza, Appalachian Foie Gras, The Moscow Paella Co., Wailing Wall Burritos, Machu Picchu Poutine, and Blarney Stone BBQ.
Hey, if decidedly un-Caribbean Pittsburgh can produce award-winning rum (thanks, Maggie’s Farm), anything is possible.
Kidding aside, in a neighborhood like Oakland with a dense collection of sushi spots that all kind of look the same, having a name that stands out can only help, and that’s to say nothing of a uniquely attractive — and fun — product.
Mount Everest Sushi, 128 Oakland Ave., Oakland; 412-952-5469.
Dan Gigler: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter @gigs412.