Asian Kitchen expands East Liberty’s palate


By Melody Lin

On 5996 Center Avenue sits an elegant, loft like restaurant that brings a taste of Asian cuisine to the East Liberty community.

Plum Pan Asian Kitchen serves all kinds of Asian dishes, including Japanese, Chinese and Thai. Even though the Japanese and Thai dishes are best sellers, most of the customers are Americans, as most dishes are catered to those who prefer American-Asian food.

Head chef Mike Lin, who comes from Taiwan, has been a Japanese chef for more than 30 years. Lin worked in Australia for two years before moving to Pittsburgh a decade ago.
Lin’s style in the kitchen is a bit out-of-the-ordinary. While he cooks up sushi, sashimi and nigiri in the kitchen, he doesn’t speak at all.

“I need to concentrate on making the best quality of sushi for the customers,” Lin says.
Out in the dining room, several Japanese lanterns of all shapes and sizes hang from the ceiling. Upon entering Plum Pan, there is a sushi bar on the left, containing several kinds of raw fish including tuna, salmon and sailfish.

Customer Lisa Witkowski dines at Plum at least once a week.

“The sushi is very fresh, the sashimi doesn’t taste fishy at all,” she says, pointing to Lin. “He is really good at making sushi.”

During lunch time, most of the restaurant’s clientele works nearby. Even though the dishes are not cheap, the customers are still willing to pay on having fresh food.

Not only is the food exquisite and fresh, but the service is excellent. Waiters are happy to teach customers about Asian cuisine and the proper way to eat sashimi.

“Now I know how to use chopsticks for eating sushi,” customer Danielle Felton says after getting a friendly lesson from her waiter. “The waiter is very patient with teaching me and explains the menu.”

The atmosphere is suitable for having a family party, reunion or business gathering because the dining room is quiet with enough seating for a good crowd. The room is separated from the entrance by a hallway, which keeps the vibe secluded and peaceful.

Plum also offers takeout, but sometimes, just like the dine-in crowd, customers don’t always know what to order. The dynamic wait staff can help by recommending what dishes are good for a night at home.

“What dishes do you recommend for takeout?” a young woman asks.

“Sashimi is one of the good choice for takeout,” the waitress Kelly says. “If you don’t eat
sashimi, you can have California rolls or other Thai food, such as Pad Thai.”

Just another lesson from the friendly staff at the Plum Pan Asian Kitchen in East Liberty.