June 18, 2024

Jo Mai Asian Culture

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Review | Novo Food Hall offers new, old taste of Asian cuisine

3 min read

Pittsburgh is in the midst of an Asian food explosion. With high-class options such as Soju in Garfield and Gi-Jin in Downtown all opening within the past five to ten years, it’s clear that Pittsburgh’s cuisine is expanding much further past its greasy sandwich and potato-based roots. 

Recently, foodies gained another Asian-food gem in the form of Novo Food Hall, which opened on March 1. What makes Novo stand out from other Asian food options in the area is that it isn’t a single restaurant — it’s seven smaller, family-owned establishments packed in one location at The Terminal in the Strip District. 

I had the opportunity to visit Novo this weekend with my family, who, like myself, are picky eaters. This proved not to be a problem, as Novo offers diverse options that will fit every taste bud. From traditional Asian-American classics like sushi and fried chicken to lesser-known options like Vietnamese pho and Filipino lumpia, Novo features enough to satisfy diners on either end of the spectrum. 

In terms of its interior, Novo is similar to many other food halls in Pittsburgh, such as the Federal Galley in Northside. It has an industrial feel to it, featuring high ceilings and metal piping like many of the other locations in The Terminal. The industrial style that has taken over Pittsburgh’s food scene may seem cliche, but Novo tries to spice up the rest of its layout with interesting light fixtures and decor. 

One thing to keep in mind when visiting Novo is that it does get very crowded. The food hall does its best to cram in as many restaurants as possible, but it does so by sacrificing dining space. The result is a very hectic feel, as swarms of other diners scramble to secure Novo’s limited first-come, first-served seating. I went on Sunday afternoon, and while the wait times for food were quick, the rest of the restaurant felt crowded and a little too loud. The entire Strip District is experiencing crowding, especially on the weekends, so be prepared to struggle to find parking as well. 

But the food is definitely worth the effort and wait. I was craving sushi, so I opted to try out Mola, which is the Japanese option at Novo. Mola has a large menu featuring a few hot options in addition to traditional sushi. It is also relatively affordable. I tried the “sushi lite” offering, which featured eight pieces of sushi for $20. Overall, the sushi tasted fresh and satisfied my craving. I especially liked the California roll, which Mola makes with brown rice instead of the typical white. 

I was able to try some of Novo’s other restaurants by stealing off of my family’s plates. My favorite was the pho chicken soup that my mom got from Tan Lac Vien, the Vietnamese kitchen. While it tasted a little bland, it simmered with the nostalgia of chicken noodle soup on a cold day. Every bite tasted fresh, yet comforting. 

While I didn’t try it, Novo also offers boba tea, which my family said, while expensive, tasted great. There is also a dessert and bakery stand towards the front, which definitely tempted my family and me as we sat directly near it.

Overall, Novo’s selection of both familiar and unfamiliar foods makes it an ideal spot for those looking to expand their palette while having safe, but delicious, options to fall back on. But be wary of the crowds that Novo is experiencing right now, and definitely go at a quieter hour, such as a Sunday afternoon like I did. 



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