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Red Bowl: New Asian restaurant kid on block

The northern suburbs have multitudes of chain restaurants and eateries. Nothing wrong with that, but savvy diners are always on the lookout for places that provide food that isn't the same from Pittsburgh to Pomona.

Enter Red Bowl, a new Asian restaurant in Cranberry. Hostess-waitress Joey Zhu greets a customer warmly; even if you've only been there once, she'll recognize you. "Welcome back," she will say.

Only two months old, Red Bowl, in Freedom Square off Freedom Road, merits return trips. It's smallish (10 booths, two larger tables), sparkling clean, the walls adorned with photos of natural images.The relaxed atmosphere doesn't prepare visitors for the array of dishes Chen Zhu prepares in the kitchen.

You want hot and spicy• Chen makes a mouth-watering Spicy Thai Red Curry Shrimp (or chicken), one of the staples of his lunchtime specials. A mere $5.99 gets you rice, an egg roll or cheese wonton and dishes that include sesame chicken, moo goo gai pan, and vegetarian offerings such as sesame tofu or sauteed broccoli.

"We're crazy busy at lunchtime," Chen says, noting he gets lots of takeout orders.

The Zhus are putting in 12-hour days, six days per week, to make their restaurant a success. Joey Zhu says things are slowly picking up around dinnertime.

Chen and Joey Zhu met while they were students in Taiwan and came to the U.S. nine years ago. Chen learned to cook from his father; his grandfather was also a cook. It's clear the family trade was passed on to him. Chen Zhu uses only the freshest of ingredients and the way the food is presented -- the spicy Thai red curry shrimp looks like a painting on the plate -- makes it almost too appealing to eat.

The restaurant's dinner menu offers all the staples of Chinese restaurants, such as General Tso's Chicken ($7.99), Seafood Delight, scallops, jumbo shrimp, crabmeat with a white wine sauce ($13.99) and coconut shrimp ($12.99). But the Red Bowl lists itself as an Asian restaurant, and Chen Zhu especially has his hand in Thai cuisine. He offers a ChickenTom Yum soup ($5.25) and pad thai; chicken or pork for $8.99, and beef or shrimp at $9.99. There also are a couple of variations of Mei Fun, the Chinese rice noodle dish, available.

Additional Information:

Red Bowl

Location: 1185 Freedom Road, Freedom Square complex, Cranberry

Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays; 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon-9:30 p.m. Sundays

Details: 724-591-5919

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