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Sushi in Pittsburgh

So....we're NEW to Pittsburgh, NEW parents, have a NEW babysitter and looking for a NEW favorite sushi place. Tasty fish is more important than atmosphere. I really, really , really want to sit my fanny down, have some sake and chill out. Any ideas?

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  1. We love Chaya in Squirrel Hill on Murray. BYOB, so bring your own sake. I LOVE the toro aburi (seared fatty tuna). It was first recommended to me by the chef my first time there and now I always get it. :) They get their seafood from Japan and NYC. This is our "go to" place. Umi is also great, just quite a bit more expensive, and not necessarily "better", just more trendy/fancy.


    1 Reply
    1. re: QSheba

      I second Chaya, by far the best sushi I've had in Pittsburgh, haven't been to Umi, and likely won't because I keep hearing Chaya is just as good if not better, and at a lower price, minus the trendiness, which makes it exactly my kind of place. My only gripe was that every time I tried to order something a little more adventourous, like the tuna collar (excellent), the waitress kept trying to talk me into something more run of the mill instead.

    2. These good people are right about Chaya! Also, avoid at all costs the sushi at Nakama Japanese Steakhouse in the South Side. Worst sushi I have ever had and I have eaten at many great sushi joints up and down the west coast.

      1. I am in love with Sushi Kim in the Strip District. Unbelievable menu..

        3 Replies
        1. re: burghgal

          Apologies but I have to disagree re Sushi Kim. While the hot food is just fine, I really think their sushi is consistently disappointing. I have tried to give it a try again and again upon the request of devotees but am never happy with it. I don't think the quality and freshness of fish comes anywhere near Chaya or other top quality, authentic sushi joints in other cities.

          1. re: meatmaster

            Just a statement of preference, but this is how I see it. Yes Koreans have sushi, and my Korean friends will make something like a maki roll, but when it comes to sashimi, I think even many Koreans enjoy Japanese cuisine. Likewise in Japan, there are Japanese/style Korean Barbeque places, but they aren't quite the same to me as the Korean ones. Something is missing, but I can't tell quite what. I was trying to be diplomatic when the person wrote about eating sushi at the Oriental Kitchen, but really you have to have some idea as to what you're going to expect. I used to by sushi half price after five at a supermarket in Japan and there was a reason it was half price. There is a difference between buffet food and food made to order (although the Taj Mahal really works hard to blur that distinction). You have to know what to expect somewhat, right? Korean sushi? American run mexican fakeries? Fusion trendy whitebread ideateries/ nightclubs? Do you want to eat the food or are your intentions less than honorable? Good Japanese: Chaya. Good Korean: Korean Garden in Oakland. What else?

          2. re: burghgal

            I agree Sushi Kim is excellent and my favorite. I haven't tried Chaya but I will based on these posts!

          3. Not only is Umi the best sushi restaurant in Pittsburgh, it's one of the city's best restaurants period. Mr. Shu's creations are spectacular and will change the way you think about sushi. It's easily on par with fine sushi restaurants in Boston and New York, but only a fraction of the price.

            By Pittsburgh standards, Umi is expensive. By national standards, the prices at Umi are a crazy steal. The omakase starts at $75!!! The same meal in Boston would be at least $125. The best part about Umi is that you can upgrade the omakase for a little bit more. They also have a great sake selection. Umi is truly a jewel of Pittsburgh for fans of fine Japanese cusiine.

            2 Replies
            1. re: gmcurology

              Umi is good for Pittsburgh, but cannot be compared to places like Boston and NY. NYC has a Japanese population almost a 1/10 the size of Pittsburgh. NYC and Boston are coastal cities. It's just not a fair comparison. The only way to judge is against other restaurants in the same city. Having not been to Chaya, I would say Umi is the best Japanese restaurant I've been to in Pittsburgh.

              1. re: johnnytang24

                I live in Boston and have been to O Ya, Uni, and Oishii multiple times. Umi in Pittsburgh does not compare to O Ya, but O Ya is one of the best restaurants in Boston. The New York Times recently said it was the best new restaurant in the United States. My point is that I believe that the food at Umi is just as good or better than high-end Japanese resturants in bigger cities, but for only a fraction of the price. It's a tremendous value and Pittsburgh is lucky to have it.

            2. If you are anywhere near the South Hills, give Little Tokyo in Mt Lebanon a try. It doesn't seem to get much press and might not be as upscale as some of the other places mentioned, but it has served pretty solid sushi for the last 10 years or so. Prices are reasonable, sushi is pretty straight forward, and good. They have a great seaweed salad to boot. Also have a fairly unknown wine list with a lot of nicer aged CA cabs. Not a sake drinker so I can't comment on that.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MrKotter

                I agree, Little Tokyo is great. I'm originally from PGH, but live in Atlanta now. I always visit Little Tokyo when I am in town. Very reasonable, very fresh--very good!

              2. I ate at Orient Kitchen once about 3 years ago with a friend. The sushi was excellent with unpretentious waitstaff. The place looks like pretty bland from the outside. Has anyone else tried this?

                1 Reply
                1. re: chinacat1969

                  It looks bad from the outside - the food is really good.

                2. I agree with Chaya recommendations as the best you can do in Pittsburgh, but note that last phrase. I've actually settled on living without sushi for the most part. Umi is a bizarre sushi place designed for people who do not like sushi. Each piece comes with a very strong dollop of something (yuzu sauce, cream cheese and a grape tomato) that effectively prevents you from tasting the fish. If that sounds like a good thing to you, by all means check it out.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: allisen

                    I agree. I've had a number of dishes there which were solely a slice of indistinguishable fish with very strong sauce.

                    1. re: allisen

                      After reading the discussion about Umi, I had to see what all of the fuss, good or bad, was about. Went this past weekend and really enjoyed the food. The sauces weren't strong al all - they were delicate and complimentary to the fish, which was very distinguishable in its own right. Either they have changed since you last went or we have very different ideas about what is stong and what is not.
                      It was a very "trendy" atmosphere, but I won't hold that against them. The food was great. We milled over our dinners for a while and no one bothered us. Also, the sake selection was extensive, and included a couple of descent bottles at a reasonable price.
                      To reply to the original thread, I'm not sure how much chilling out can occur there - I think you porbably need a reservation and it would get pricey to hang out for a while and get lots of courses. But, if you can plan ahead and save some money in the food budget, it's worth a try.

                    2. I've been going to Penn Ave Fish Co. in the strip for sushi lately. They have a great all you can eat deal on Wed. during lunch., $19 or so. It's table service, not a buffet. The only downside is that it gets pretty busy and you can easily be there for an hour or longer if you'd like to make it past round one. They have two sushi chefs working, but even with that it can be a good wait for a second or third serving.

                      1. Like QSheba, I'd say, in order, Umi, then Chaya. They rank that way for quality and price. Chaya's less stylish by far. I happen to like Sushi Kim lots and I do order their sushi, but mostly makis. It's their Korean food that makes them excellent.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: houndog

                          Try Tamari and Plum now that they are open.

                        2. As a major sushi fan who had trouble adjusting to the 'burgh's food scene, I feel compelled to respond to this conversation. I grew up in New York with very excellent and affordable sushi options, and I'm also familiar with D.C. and Philly sushi. Here are my thoughts on Pittsburgh sushi:

                          -Umi -- have not yet tried it, but am very curious...

                          -Nakama -- This place on the South side is always rated by pittsburghers for some magazine as "best sushi." It is not. By far. It's primarily a bar, for one thing, with rude service and an overly tatooed and brash clientele that seemed interested only in ordering beer and california rolls. When I went, I was so supremely disappointed, we didn't even stay.

                          -Chaya: The quality of the fish is excellent, and they use real wasabi as opposed to the green paste. However, I don't go there anymore because they do not prepare the rice properly for nigiri. If you like to have maki or nigiri (as opposed to all sashimi), be aware that they don't use mirin to make the rice sticky rice. I'm glad they're around, but I don't patronize them anymore, because I found...

                          -New dumpling house. This half-Chinese food, half sushi place at the bottom of the hill on Murray ave. (just down the street from Chaya) serves up consistenly good and affordable sushi. The Green Fuji roll is magnificent. The service is friendly. The fish is silky and delicious. The ambiance is a mix of acrylic flowers and faux-bamboo trimmings, but the tackiness reminds me of my first sushi experiences in New York so I kind of love it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: scarletcerise

                            I forgot about the Penn Avenue Fish Market. They have great sushi and high quality fish for sale - make your own at home.
                            Wholey's makes excellent sushi too.
                            I have never tried New Dumpling House but will give it a whirl.

                            1. re: scarletcerise

                              Chaya does not use real wasabi. Almost no restaurants anywhere use real wasabi, even in Japan. Also, Chaya *does* prepare the rice properly for nigiri, and New Dumpling House does not. It is fine that you prefer New Dumpling House, but you have it backwards.

                              Dumpling House
                              31 Main St, Wellsboro, PA 16901

                            2. Been to Boston many times (used to live there). Last time, did a tour of Japanese. No one in Boston understands what omakase is. Every restaurant threw out a bunch of menu items and walked away. At least Mr. Shu understands the concept.

                              Umi is good, but you know that Mr. Shu is going to copy whatever he finds when Tom Baron sends him to Nobu or Masa for some recon.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: thehungryi

                                Can you elaborate on what you mean by he understands omakase? I'm looking to experience the omakase at umi fairly soon, and would like to know what I'm in store for. I was hoping for predominantly sushi and sashimi dishes with a few other tastings.

                                1. re: Rodzilla

                                  Omakase means something like "It's up to you." For a good omakase experience, you must sit at the bar and engage the chef. He will begin by asking you what you are hungry for and telling you what he has that's special. He'll start you out with something rather tentative, relying on you to show him what you like. He'll then design the meal based on what you like, expanding and challenging, if that's what you want. Each course will build on the last until you arrive at the end having walked through the evening's fare.

                                  Omakase should be a conversation based on food. If you're open to trying new things, you will be in for an experience of a lifetime, if you have a good chef that wants to take you on a journey. If you get an assembly-line approach, which, sadly, we experienced in Boston last time around, you will get nothing more than a bunch of menu items thrown at you all at once.

                                  Hope this helps, and sorry for the delay. Chow seems not very user friendly to me.

                              2. Ok, I'm an experienced Sushi hound and I can tell you what's up in the 'burgh...
                                New Dumpling House, Murray Ave. Squirrel Hill. -- Excellent and reminiscent of the quality, affordable NY city sushi joints where I started to eat good Sushi. Plus, if you go there regularly, the chef begins to know you and sometimes will serve you some real Japanese sweet sake from his own stash. Nothing like it!
                                Umi -- Shadyside. Good sushi, but pretentious and WAY over priced. (And for all the effete snobs out there who like to compare the prices with Boston and NY, I say apples and oranges. I wouldn't spend $175 for a Sushi meal in any city except Tokyo and you really don't have to spend that much for good fish. At Umi, you're just paying for stuck-up ambience and overpriced drinks.)
                                Chaya -- When I ate there, he used mirin in his rice and for a while I thought he had the best fish around. Haven't been in a while but my friends still rave. When he first opened, he used to got to NY City once a week to bring back fish he couldn't get here.
                                Whollys' in the strip. -- Don't know if he's there still, but there used to be a guy at the entrance who whipped it up fresh, strictly to go. Small menu, but you'd be hard pressed to find fresher fish in Pgh. He's always good and cheap too.
                                So skip Umi unless you're gonna take out a loan for dinner, and hit these other joints. they should keep you properly Sushified!

                                1. I always think its funny when people talk about "Pittsburgh's inland and is nothing like Boston or NYC because they are on the coast" I guess the year round Salmon and sea urchin harvest in Boston Harbor adds to the freshness.

                                  A little bit about the sushi business, almost all sushi in the country comes from the Moonie's New World Foods (about 75% of all restaurants fish come from here).


                                  NYC or SF have an argument for access to better fish because of the number of international flights to these cities. Pittsburgh usually has an four hour lag compared to NYC after its trucked here from New Jersey. The quality of the fish at this point has nothing to do with where the restaurant is located, but how much the restaurant wants to spend on getting good fish. For instance, find me some fresh tuna (never frozen) anywhere in the continental US. Heat in Chicago actually kept the fish live in tanks and killed them on the spot. That was great but limited (and $250 per person).

                                  Back to the original question. The best is Chaya and Andy in the strip. Pittsburgh fish market, Penn ave Fish and Tamari get mentions. Umi just has a nice atmosphere.

                                  Umi Restaurant
                                  5847 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pierogiman

                                    I've now been to Umi several times, and I have to recommend that everyone try it at least once. I've never had anything that didn' taste amazing at UMI, I can't say that for any of the other spots..including Chaya.

                                    Umi also has the best service. The nigiri pieces are very small, but they all taste amazing.

                                    Chaya is next best for quality of the fish, the cuts are more traditional and on the larger side. I also think they use the perfect rice (taste/texture/size)

                                    I've had some very good nigiri pieces at tamari as well. If you'e looking for some type of fusion roll they are also the place to go.

                                    Plum surprised me. My dining companions non-sushi meal was dissapointing, but I had some quality piece of fish. Th service is notoriously hit or miss, and it's loud..definitely not my first choice but I'd be happy to have the sushi.

                                    Little Tokyo Bistro in south side has decent fish at a dcent price and a better ambiance than plum.

                                    Umi Restaurant
                                    5847 Ellsworth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15232

                                    Little Tokyo Bistro
                                    2122 E Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15203