9-29-18 / Musa / Pittsburgh, PA (Beechview)

Saturday around noon, I went with my wife and met a friend at a place that I’ve been wanting to visit for quite a while. In the interest of pure transparency, I have to admit that Musa is owned and run by friends of ours, but anyone who knows me knows that I am honest and fair. I am so proud and so excited to report that Musa has a well-cultivated menu and delivers on everything I would hope for and more. They surpassed my already-high expectations and I cannot wait to return and try every single thing that they have to offer.

 

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We started with the plantain chips, which are a must-order. Long strips of plantain, starchy and lightly crisped, with not a hint of the oil they were fried in, tossed in simple sea salt and served along this so-good-I-wanted-to-buy-a-gallon garlic chimichurri. Just looking at it brings to mind herbaceous and light notes, but the true star is the roasted garlic just exploding out with a perfectly rounded flavor. Wonderfully acidic and earthy, it was the perfect pairing to the fried chips. You’d still be doing it right if you did nothing but sit at their bar, order drafts, and eat bowl after bowl of these incredible chips.

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The fried avocado was another wonderfully simple dish, enhanced by pure skill and technique in preparation. The avocado chunks were pure, freshly deep fried and coated in crunchy plantain crumbs, melting into that wonderful texture you get from a well-roasted root vegetable. The light and creamy Caribe dipping sauce was as if the best parts of a ranch dipping sauce and a vinaigrette or aioli meet and combine. It was still smooth and creamy, with a wonderful light acidity to it, but was rounded out with deep earthy notes as well. Paired with the rich chunks of avocado, it was another masterful pairing.

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The chicken curry was wonderful, with a tomato-based curry sauce, potatoes, carrots, peas and rice. The big chunks of chicken absorbed all of those wonderful flavors and were delicious with the spicy, well-balanced and delicious sauce. The incredible support from the paratha roti (the bread) was a new experience for me. I was expecting a bready and soft naan-like bread, but instead was treated to something far closer to a croissant or a crepe, with layer after layer of flaky and sweet bread. The sauce was sucked up into the many layers and crevices of the roti like a sponge, providing a wonderful dining experience and insuring that no drop was left behind.

The biggest surprise of the entire meal for me had to have been the pork chop. This thing was massive. I’m talking at least 2 inches thick with just the slightest rivulet of bone running alongside the back of the chop. This thing was a prize. This is what the butcher cuts for himself to take home to cook. The true beauty of this dish was that this piece of meat was honored, it was raised up on high, it was treated with care and aplomb, this is in the top 3 pork chops I have eaten in my entire life. It was impeccably prepared, with an outrageously good crust around the entire chop that was everything good carnitas and good pork chops and good chicharrons aspire to have. The perfect porkiness of that crunch, that crust, that enveloped and protected every slice of this gorgeously prepared pork, a perfect medium that was as moist as you could ever want. If I had just been served this behemoth, masterfully cut, spectacularly cooked porkchop on a plate, I would have been more than happy but the sides were something to behold as well. The bacon and onion reduction on top was every part smoky crunchy bacony and sweet earthy oniony that you’d want in a pork dish. It was so balanced and mellow, the gastrique just melted into the delicious greens. The red beans and jasmine rice had special care, with barely broken beans, and fragrant rice, soaking up all of the incredible juices that intermixed on this plate like a symphony. The sauce wasn’t even needed, there was so much flavor and incredible tastes from the still-crunchy greens, the red beans and rice, and the pork. Oh man that pork. I am going to be thinking about that pork chop for a long, long time.

 

It’s one thing to visit a good restaurant. It’s another to support a friend. When you can do both and be treated to a spectacular meal and experience, there really is nothing better in life. I love that my friends can be successful and live their dreams and their passion and to see all of their hard work being rewarded and paying off. It means so much to me when you (as a reader) write to me and tell me you’ve taken one of my recommendations and had a good meal as a result of it. Please continue supporting local restaurants, encouraging this thriving local food scene that we’re cultivating. More than anything, please keep going out there and trying new things, exploring neighborhoods you’ve never been to before, trying cuisines you’ve never had, meeting new people, and making new friends in the most unexpected places. Maybe even an unassuming block on the T-line, right between Dormont and Beechview, in a place whose doors are bursting out with charm and character, a little sample of Caribbean comfort and relaxation, and so much love and fiery passion that the plate can barely contain it all.

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