Last Updated on January 4, 2023 by Jeremy
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Jian's Kitchen is a bit unsual by Squirrel Hill standards in that it does not have a prominent storefront on Forbes or Murray.
To find this Chinese gem, you're going to have to go into the basement of an office complex via a narrow doorway in the heart of the Forbes business district. This truly is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of place, so having an idea that this one is indeed in the basement with minimal front signage is key.
So, what kind of Chinese food does this one offer? To be honest this one features unique dishes from all over the country, including popular American Chinese dishes as well, but during our first visit we decided to stick close to the Northeastern China side of the menu!
Jian's Kitchen's Chinese Menu is Huge
When you sit down to read the menu at Jian's Kitchen, you are faced with dishes from all around the country. A large menu of Sichuan dishes are found next to American Chinese, Northeastern Chinese, a hefty seafood specialty section, and more.
As this restaurant replaced the former Northeastern Kitchen, which we sadly did not get to try before its closure, we decided to focus our attention on the Northeastern Chinese side of the menu for our entrees as it was highlighted as a bit of a specialty.
But first, we started our night out with two appetizers that we always love to order at Chinese restaurants- scallion pancakes and pork-filled dumplings.
The dumplings here came six to an order of conventional size and were packed with pork and very mild seasonings. They were then lightly fried (browned on one side) and served with a soy sauce dip that made for a relatively simple but flavorful bite where the pork was the star of the show.
The scallion pancake was one of the better iterations of this dish we've tried and was a lightly fried (yet still crispy) pancake loaded up with scallions. It may sound like it is a basic dish, much like the dumplings, but the flavor contrast between the dough and scallions really offered a refreshing pop in between our admittedly pork-heavy dinner.
For our entrees, we ordered Salt and Pepper Pork and Mushu Pork from the Northeastern China side of the menu.
The Salt and Pepper Pork came recommended by our waiter and was branded as a spicy dish with roughly a dozen small, fried pork cutlets topped with onion and an absurd amount of fried garlic (but we love garlic, so we were quite okay with this). The emphasis on this dish really is on the salt and pepper as the breading on the cutlet packed a punch on both- so if you are sensitive to salt at all, this one is not for you. The garlic added a lovely contrast to the flavors thanks to its abundance, but the minimal jalapeno slices barely imparted any heat unless you had one or two on your fork in any given bite.
While we quite liked this one, it also did amount to a monster plate of meat without a sauce or other contrasting flavors, which was a bit unusual to wrap our heads around for an entree.
Our second entree was an order of Northeastern Mushu Pork which was stir-fried pork, vegetables, mushrooms, and more tossed in a light soy/oyster sauce dressing. This one really helped offset the umami of the pork nicely with the vegetables and sauce, but the irony isn't lost on us that we mistakenly ordered a pork-heavy meal all around. Whoops.
Ultimately we walked out of Jian's Kitchen completely stuffed on pork, had enough leftovers for two solid meals each, and we were already planning a return trip with friends to order more from their ridiculously large menu (and perhaps craft a more balanced meal than the one we made this go around). In fact, you would be wise to do the same when visiting!
Go to Jian's Kitchen With a Group
Before ending this one, it is worth highlighting that almost every dish at Jian's Kitchen is served in huge, almost family-style portions with very little in the form of what we'd call conventional sides on the menu. This is, in all honesty, a recurring theme at Chinese restaurants, so this is also not a terribly big surprise.
From what we saw, vegetable-forward dishes that could make great accompaniments, like the Northeastern Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, also come in excessively large portions as entrees (or are branded as appetizers with still quite large servings). So if we were to try and craft a conventional meal of an appetizer, entrees, and sides (i.e. another entree ordered to take the place of a side), we would have enough food to feed a small army.
We attempted to do this restaurant justice with our order above, and admit we probably ordered enough to easily feed at least four people and were only just starting to craft what we'd call a balanced meal out of our visit. In all honesty, we should've ordered a few vegetable dishes to really make a diverse meal out of our visit, but then we likely would've had enough food leftover to feed us for a week or longer.
You can look at this in one of two ways. First, the best option is to simply go with a group of friends. Order four or five dishes of varying vegetable and protein bases and enjoy the feast that is about to come your way. Second, you could also visit and simply order a single entree which, while also enjoyable, may not necessarily do the restaurant justice. For as much as we adored the salt and pepper pork, for example, a plate of fried pork on its own would have been a bit unusual to enjoy as a meal on its own.
As such, when visiting this one, do it properly and gather up your friends and order a feast- it truly is the only way to go here!
Jian's Kitchen is located at 5824 Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. As noted, this one is in the basement of an office complex, so be on the lookout for the signage at the entrance to direct you where to go.
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