Umai, Mt. Lebanon (left); Hamachi Carpaccio (right)

Umai, a sushi and raw bar restaurant featuring both Japanese and Thai cuisine is bringing a fresh new option to diners on the popular Beverly Road strip in Mt. Lebanon. Located across from the newly-opened Block 292, Umai is quickly winning over locals happy to discover yet another new dining alternative on the block.

While neighborhood residents were busy watching the handsome transformation of an old service station into Block 292, the nondescript sushi place across the street quietly changed hands, renovated its interior and created a bold and inspired menu. Suddenly, the combination of beautiful sushi rolls and Thai curry bowls are tantalizing a new group of regulars.

“We wanted to offer a different kind of dining experience to the area,” says Panchiwan Tangkea who co-owns Umai with her sister, Mayjeera. Based on the crowd during two recent Friday night visits, their efforts are resonating paying off.

Umai’s Toto Roll.
Umai’s Toto Roll.

Both sisters are Thai and grew up in a large family, learning the food business firsthand from their mother who ran a restaurant in a small town outside of Bangkok. Mayjeera, who does much of the cooking, married a Japanese man and fell in love with Japanese cuisine. “Thai dishes are still her favorite to cook” insists Panchiwan with a smile, “but she loves to prepare Japanese food as well, and that is how we created this menu that features both kinds of dishes.”

Umai has many options, from raw bar oysters and sashimi to classic Phad Thai, curries and Japanese Teriyakis—even bowls of ramen. But it’s the restaurant’s inventive sushi menu which goes beyond the typical spicy tuna roll that is a real attention-grabber. Fresh hamachi carpaccio with olive tapenade artfully plated on shiso leaves with thai chilis and miso vinaigrette is a real standout. The green curry bowl hits that wonderful flavor balance that lies at the heart of Thai cooking: hot, salty, sour and sweet. The coconut delivers a punch of sweet flavor on top of the delicious spiciness. Additionally, Umai offers a selection of fresh fish for sale with market prices posted daily. They also cook and prepare whole fish (in Bangkok or Tokyo style) for dine-in and take-home orders.

The restaurant’s interior update has a modern, comfortable feel with plenty of seats at the sushi bar where it doesn’t take long to be on a first-name basis with sushi chefs Buzz and Nate. Cozy booths in the back seem perfect for ducking in on a cold day for a piping hot bowl of ramen. On a warm day, there are tables outside for sidewalk dining.

Umai offers a selection of wine, beer, and of course, sake, as well as take-out and delivery service, and is available on GrubHub. They are open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. More information for Umai can be found on their website or Facebook.

Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.