Munch goes to Aseoma
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Every dude has what Munch calls a Dude Business Plan. Occasionally laid out in smudgy pen on the back of the napkin, these proposals are often pitched during happy hour specials and are, approximately 99 percent of the time, bars, taverns or restaurants. The rest of the time they involve starting a website or "just, you know, moving to South America." As in "You know what, dude? We should totally quit these well-paying jobs that offer us financial security, health care and a 401(k) matching program and start an aquarium-themed bar! Mermaids, man! It's a no-brainer." Few folks actually have the cojones to do it. And frankly, Munch admires the heck out of the ones who do.
That's why Munch is giving big ups to the guy who started Aseoma. A former technology consultant, he told Munch that he always wanted to be a restaurateur and to serve the food he loved. So when he saw a vacant space open up in Squirrel Hill, deemed by Munch the Food United Nations of Pittsburgh, he made the jump.
The menu includes pan-Asian street food fare, inspired, in part by Kogi BBQ, a food truck that serves Korean style-meat in tacos and quesadillas in Los Angeles, where he formerly resided. The tacos developed a rabid, cult-like following, something you'll understand if you ever try them (Munch has). They alone are enough to visit the city, even if you have to deal with Lakers fans.
The influence of the taco trucks on Aseoma is evident throughout the menu. There's an LA Galbi, described as "marinated beef ribs cut LA style," and the tacos and burritos "Coreanos." (That's the Spanish word for Korean).
The menu is expansive and varied with lots of Munch's favorites, from authentic Thai dishes, like Laab Gai, a mostly meat salad, to stuff more akin to Chinese-American takeout fare, like Crab Rangoon. Which is why Munch was glad to be joined by Decisive Eater Friend of Munch, who decided, right off the bat, "We're getting the beef dumplings, pan fried. We're not messing around with this steamed crap."
The beef dumplings (12 for $8.95) were a scrumptious start to the meal, the dough perfectly chewy and crispy. The filling was equal parts meat and vegetable, which made devouring four of them a little less daunting. The Tod Mun Cakes (three for $7.95) -- or Thai-style fish cakes -- were also nicely done, served alongside a cilantro-specked vinegar sauce.
The Los Angeles/Mexican/Korean-style entrees got more mixed reviews. The Korean Sliders (6 for $9.75) came with a choice of three meats, and we chose the "fire meat," marinated short ribs. They came on spongy buns, piled high with pickled Korean vegetables and tomato.
Lawyer Friend of Munch, who was too important to show up on time, declared them delicious. Munch was a little more reserved with praise. The buns got a little soggy, the meat-to-veggie ratio favored veggies a little too heavily and the accompanying fries were a tad underdone.
The Mason Pork Taco ($3.25) was comparatively a standout, served with crunchy "Korean slaw" and kimchi, or spicy pickled cabbage, and tender slices of pork. DEFOM gave her Thai Style Coconut Curry ($12.95), which came with an abundance of vegetables along with chicken and shrimp, a hearty thumbs-up.
For a restaurant first-timer, Aseoma is certainly a worthy effort. Which makes Munch want to ring Best Friend Forever Friend of Munch.
"Dude, we should totally start that Polish burrito car wash!"
First Published February 2, 2012 12:00 am