I am enamored with Paid in Full. From the pop culture references adorning the space (Star Wars. Flavor Flav! John Belushi’s samurai chef?) to the hip-hop-heavy soundtrack—featuring the likes of Kool Moe Dee’s “I Go to Work” and the Eric B. & Rakim track that inspired the restaurant’s name—it’s as if proprietors Jason Olson and Michael Plourde snuck a look at my diary. And of course, it helps that the well-crafted Asian street food being doled out by the duo, formerly of Wynn and Michael Mina restaurants, is equally appealing.
The Paid in Full team has assembled plenty of playful presentations and seriously good food. Triple garlic yakisoba ($18) comes in a Chinese takeout container, while mapo tofu Frito pie ($14) arrives atop a sliced-open Fritos bag. The former is devastatingly delicious, rife with fried garlic accenting the smoky noodles, while the latter is an effective interplay of textures without the overwhelming heat traditionally found in the dish. Either can be ordered with a Colt 45 ($6) with its own brown paper bag. Seriously.
Elsewhere, whimsical udon fries ($5) are traditional Japanese wheat flour noodles, chopped and deep-fried before being topped with a tangy Thousand Island-esque special sauce. There’s a quintet of takoyaki, although technically only the octopus (tako in Japanese) is traditional. But I won’t fault this kitchen for its escargot rendition ($9), transforming the garlic butter-laden French classic into deep-fried, snail-stuffed treats; or
the smoked salmon option ($10), a twist on the Jewish deli staple, replete with a sharp dill cream.
Not everything qualifies as memorable. Kurobuta corn dogs ($10) didn’t excite, its breading with nary a hint of seasoning obscuring otherwise tasty pork. And the beets in a yuzu golden beets dish ($6) are practically unnecessary, since the accompanying whipped jalapeño feta and irresistible furikake lavash are so good by themselves. But these are minor shortcomings in an otherwise wildly successful venue. Like Eric B. & Rakim, the talented Olson and Plourde ain’t no joke.
Paid in Full 7225 S. Durango Drive #105, 725-605-4402. Tuesday-Sunday, 5-10 p.m.