J.Immy Wan’s restaurant and lounge in Cranberry will celebrate their 15th anniversary in May. Jimmy Wan Sr. is a fundamental figure in the growth of Chinese restaurants in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
“It was my father with Taipei (O’Hara Township, 1985), Michael Chen with China Palace (Monroeville, 1988), Kathy Yee with Ya Fei (Robinson Township, 1989), George Lee with Sesame Inn (Mt. Lebanon, 1987 )). That’s the triumvirate right there. It’s the old guard and I respect what they did to raise Chinese restaurants in Pittsburgh, ”says Jimmy Wan Jr., who owns the restaurant with his father.
Wan Sr. founded the Pittsburgh Chinese Restaurant Association 22 years ago to help the burgeoning restaurant community grow and run its business. “Take something as simple as dealing with the health department. They went to places and the cooks and inspectors couldn’t always communicate with each other because they spoke different languages, “says Wan Jr. Over the past year, the association has been instrumental in helping Chinese-owned restaurants such as managing COVID relief initiatives to support the Payroll Protection Program.
Wan Jr. believes that the deliberate amalgamation of the various hybrids that influenced his family for decades in the Pittsburgh area restaurant business set the stage for the company’s long-lasting popularity in cranberry.
“You don’t have to put a kitchen in a certain type of restaurant. Every kitchen has numerous stories to tell. This is our version, ”he says.
For Wan, this meant building a restaurant with his father, in which a menu with popular Chinese-American dishes and items from Asian culinary influences combined with a sushi bar, a lounge with comprehensive service and the design and service points of the upper class became food. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can usually find a lounge full of regulars enjoying a drink after work or before or after dinner and a dining room with a cross-section of Pittsburgh that shares excellent canonical representations in Chinese -American dishes such as wan clay soup, egg rolls, beef ho-fun and chicken with broccoli as well as a selection of sushi rolls and Japanese-influenced small plates such as chilli albacore sashimi, seaweed salad and bigeye tartare. (Wan says the restaurant continued to run a robust takeout business throughout the pandemic and the dining room is now open per current Pennsylvania guidelines.)
“I think Fusion has long been a fusion of traditional and local flavor profiles,” he says.
Wan says that the philosophy is that it is important to know that your clientele has always determined the restaurant’s menu design, which means that in addition to homemade dumplings, guests also include typical products such as kung pao filet mignon and Chilean sea bass with ginger -See green onions. “We took some things that people would enjoy in a fine dining restaurant and then delivered our great flavor profiles to a place that might have had a more meat and potato background,” says Wan.
Chef Zhen Chen, who has cooked in the Wan family restaurants for nearly 28 years, is the head chef. He has a back-of-house group that has several chefs who have worked for the Wans for almost as long. Chef Aki Lee is the sushi chef; He’s been in the restaurant for seven years and prepares nigiri, sashimi and people-friendly rolls like crazy tuna (spicy tuna, avocado and cucumber, garnished with peppered bigeye tuna, mango and crispy taro root) with attention to detail like properly cooked and seasoned rice.
“There is great trust in us in the neighborhood. We have guests who come weekly and order the same thing week after week. And then one day they want to do something different. They trust us to point them in the right direction and sometimes they have a new regular dish, ”says Wan, noting that over the years as it has been integrated into the community, the restaurant strikes a balance between adding of dishes and keeping long-time favorites. Much like the large Burrito Restaurant Group could navigate their facilities.
Wan grew up in the restaurant business and spent his childhood running under Taipei’s tables. The family is no longer affiliated with the O’Hara restaurant. With no plans to join the family business, he left Pittsburgh to attend college after graduating from Shadyside Academy in 1999. He later worked as a financial analyst for Intel in Sacramento, California. When he returned to Pittsburgh to start a computer company in 2005, he was increasingly drawn to the restaurant business instead.
“At this point, Pittsburgh hadn’t evolved to realize that Asian restaurants can be holistic. That you could have wine pairings and desserts. We wanted to develop from the stereotypical vision of Chinese restaurants, ”he says.
Realizing his vision, Wan Sr. was open to the idea of adding a full bar and upscale design to the new restaurant, building on the foundations of facilities like Shun Lee Palace in New York City that have since served fine Chinese food 1970s.
The Wans opened a second Jimmy Wan location in O’Hara in 2009, and Wan Jr. says they want to expand their brand to other suburban locations despite no schedule. What is certain, however, is that Wan plans to continue the legacy of his father – who continues to be active in the two restaurants but enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. “My father created this incredible foundation in Pittsburgh for people who love his food. It’s great to continue that legacy and I take that responsibility very seriously, ”says Wan.
1686 PA-228, Cranberry Twp .; 724 / 778-8978, jimmywans.com