When I hear a rumbling once about a new restaurant, I take note. Twice, and I might write it down. Three times, and I am pretty much going to get there. Over the past month or so, I had several people recommend that I check out the ‘hot new Asian tapas restaurant.’ Of course, I am a sucker for small plates of any kind, and a new tapas restaurant really piqued my interested. There were a few caviates, however, to these recommendations.
First, it was sort of in a really unexpected location.
Second, the location was really…unexpected.
You will find Pipa in 900 West and 118 North. And, you will find it in a strip mall. Don’t let either of these thing deter you though–because Pipa was a totally awesome, hip, delicious, and very moderately priced restaurant with an almost dance club feel. From the moment we opened the door and walked in, I totally forgot I was anywhere near a strip mall OR even in Salt Lake City for that matter. And let’s be honest, the location of Pipa is probably keeping their amazing food prices down, which we can all appreciate.
When you walk into Pipa you will be greeted by a very wonderful and friendly staff; it may have been some of the better service that I have had in a while. It seemed as though everyone there was truly invested in the idea and the food of this super cool restaurant. The lighting is dim and sort of…well, sexy. Everything about the atmosphere (except for perhaps the diner-looking chairs) was totally something that this Nosh Maven can appreciate. Ambiance is almost just as important as food…almost.
While looking over the menu, I was really surprised by the huge selection of sake inspired cocktails they had and how awesome the prices were. Usually, I could expect to spend 8 or 9 bucks on a saketini at other bars in the downtown area. However, Pipa’s awesome cocktails were more in the $5 range. I started with the Summer’s Kiss, which was sort of a spin on the pina colada–but with an asian twist. Delish, but a bit too sweet for my taste. :) Although, it came with an umbrella, and that always counts for something.
While the cocktails were awesome, the food that Pipa brought to our table was interesting, well thought out, modern, and tasted amazing and somewhat unexpected. First, we started out with some edemame. This, I thought was easy and mundane, but they found a way to make it exciting with the presentation (anything in a martini glass is always welcome at my table).
We also ordered the Garlic Asparagus Fries ($5.95) which were so creative. Take one of my favorite veggies and wrap it in a wonton? Yes please. Don’t pass these babies up. The garlic aioli is fabulous.
The XOXO Noodles were also quite surprising ($5.95). When they were brought to the table, they almost looked like slices of really tender pork or beef. However, they were noodles that looked thick and then separated into thiner slices, somewhat like a biscuit. The flavor was awesome and the texture of the noodles was different, thick, and filling. These were one of my favorites.
I always struggle with one decision at an Asian restaurant: fresh rice paper spring rolls or crispy fried ones? If you choose the wrong one, you will always wish you went with the other. But, at Pipa, Garden Spring Rolls with the fresh rice paper rolls were a great choice ($5.75). You can choose to have a sweeter roll with mango and papaya or you can go with shrimp and pork. We chose the latter–and they were awesome. The peanut sauce was to die for.
We aren’t done yet!
My boyfriend recently turned me onto authentic Ramen. I have been craving it ever since. So, I couldn’t pass up trying the Mini Cup of Ramen on Pipa’s menu ($4.95). Did I mention this dish is only $4.95??? The Ramen had a great flavor and I particularly enjoyed the pork dumpling in each small cylinder bowl. It was a really lovely twist on an ancient dish. I really liked that it was served so that three people could enjoy and the bean sprouts on the side were fresh and crunchy!
My absolute favorite dish that we ordered at Pipa was by far and away the Snowball Shrimp ($6.95). I believe that they nearly left us speechless. I have never had shrimp that were so amazingly well prepared and in such a succulent, creamy, sweet sauce. If you want a sexy dish at Pipa to go with the atmosphere, this is it. I have been dreaming, literally, about these shrimp ever since. The flavor is so full and perfect that it was nearly unbelievable. I am not exaggerating. If you do not go to Pipa and get the Snowball Shrimp, you are missing out on a life experience. Stop reading now–right now–and drive to 900 West and order the Snowball Shrimp. YUMMMMMM.
For dessert we went with a few different options…because, why not? At Pipa’s pricing, you can pretty much get whatever you want!
First we had the Mochi Green Tea Ice Cream ($4.50). I don’t like super sweet things, so for me this was perfect. My boyfriend would have preferred something a bit more sugary, but that is just because he is so sweet. ;) I really really loved the way this ice cream was served and the way you could just pick it up with your fingers and pop it in your mouth. This was a very modern semi sweet dessert.
Last, but not least, we had the Mount Lychee ($4.50). Wow. This tart and zangy Asian fruit has my heart. This dessert had everything–sweetness, texture, tartness, and happiness all stacked in a tower of beauty! Why do we not eat more of this in America? The raspberry puree was a great accent and I couldn’t have asked for a better finish to an amazing meal.
So, have I convinced you? Get out of downtown for an evening and check Pipa out. And, tell your friends. This place deserves some really great customers who appreciate really amazing food. It won’t be long before the great folks at Pipa hit up some swanky downtown location…and you might not get that amazing Snowball Shrimp at the price you can right now!