Down-Ticket Tastings 

New eats on Forest Hill Avenue feed the penny pinchers.

click to enlarge The Asian Galaxy’s self-named roll has shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, lobster salad and tobiko for $12.95. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The Asian Galaxy’s self-named roll has shrimp tempura, cucumber, avocado, lobster salad and tobiko for $12.95.

It seems like every other day I hear about a new restaurant on Forest Hill Avenue. Where chain restaurants once were king, local places are taking over and beating the big guys in price and taste. Sushi, Peruvian chicken and huge, inexpensive submarine sandwiches are creating some verbal traffic that’s justified.

If you haven’t ventured to Asian Galaxy, it should make your list. Chinese, Japanese and Thai foods are combined in a large, well-executed menu. Dumplings ($4.95-$5.50) show the nuances of each culture; available pan-fried or steamed. The Chinese versions are translucent and delicate while the Thai and Japanese (gyoza or shumai) favor thicker dough and a slightly different spice profile. A better-than-average Thai red curry ($9.95 with chicken) is light on heat but heavy in portion. A shockingly red Szechuan chicken ($9.95) is again huge in quantity but lacks the slow burn I was expecting from a Szechuan dish. Sushi is where Asian Galaxy really shows expertise. Special rolls called the American hero and dream roll (each $8.95) make use of short-grained rice with fresh, intentionally placed fish and sweet crab in generous portions. Fried masago (roe), bonito flakes and other umami flavors give additional oomph.

Asian Galaxy
7048 Forest Hill Ave.
Monday-Thursday 11a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

Crust and Cream corners the market on people with a sweet-tooth. Featuring Homestead Creamery milkshakes, this tiny quasi-pizzeria is churning — pun intended — infusions ($3.95-$4.25) for a bevy of South Siders. Infusions — think a Dairy Queen Blizzard but better — can be made with additions such as Twix, M&Ms or as a mixed banana split.

On the savory side, the Philly cheese steak is exceptional for the price ($4.45 for a half, $5.95 for a whole with chips), featuring sliced rib-eye, onions, peppers and provolone. I enjoy the meatball sub ($3.95 for a half, 5.95 for a whole) with its hand-rolled spicy meatballs piled onto a roll and baked with provolone and tomato sauce.

Be alert when ordering pizza. The margherita isn’t your classic tomato, basil and mozzarella. This version has basil pesto, chicken and sun-dried tomatoes, and would benefit from a longer sit in the oven and slightly less pesto. The meat lover’s dream lacked the dream. It needed just a bit more time in the heat as well and better quality bacon. The meats here are halal, there’s no alcohol, and it’s a mostly carry-out business that’s family-run.

Crust and Cream
4610 Forest Hill Ave.
Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

The world-famous, according to its website, Chicken Mania brings Peruvian chicken north. Online ordering and delivery are easy and quick. My last delivery order took less than 25 minutes and I live on the other side of the bridge. Stick with the rotisserie chicken specialty as opposed to hitting other portions of the menu.

The whole chicken ($13.95), including two sides, is a big enough portion for three. Fried cassava is thickly sliced and, at times, good and crispy. Black beans are stewlike. Maduros (fried plantains) are a good balance between sweet and salty. Don’t get caught napping when you try the spicy green sauce, aji, which is served with everything. Typically containing Peruvian chilis and a native black mint called huacatay, this light sauce packs a huge wallop.

Chicken Mania
7524 Forest Hill Ave.
Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.


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