4517 E Main Street, Columbus, 43213
(in the back of Dire-Dawa Grocery)
4517 E Main Street, Columbus, 43213
(in the back of Dire-Dawa Grocery)
1506 Bethel Road (Bethel Center)
Hours: Tues-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri & Sat 11am-10.30pm, Sun 11am-9pm
Ramen and fried chicken. The sudden eruption of restaurants specializing in one or the other amounts to a culinary onslaught. And so, it was inevitable – Meshikou debuts as a place that does both.
The karaage is good – crispy, with a thin, delicate crust, and exceptionally tender flesh – and more or less what you might expect from a Japanese take on fried chicken. Seasoning is mercifully restrained, the crust and flesh are as far from greasy as could be, and a basket is perfect for two to share. A sweet and spicy dipping sauce accompanies.
As for the ramen – while strict purists may reasonably object to various elements of it, our slurping table of 5 found little to complain about and much to enjoy. The ‘shoyu tonkotsu ramen’, as the name suggests, is a mashup of two traditional styles, probably tasted as strongly of chicken stock as the pork broth that ‘tonkotsu’ promises, but nonetheless delivered on ramen’s (often lacking) key components of luxurious richness and deep broth flavor. The increasingly de-rigeur Sun Noodle ramen noodles proved that there’s good reason for their ubiquity and they were prepared to a pleasing toothsomeness. The chashu pork was solid, and the marinated soft boiled egg was absolutely perfect in flavor and texture.
In short, it was a good bowl. It was also a relatively small bowl. When it came, I eyed it with skepticism. When I was finished, I realized that the size was ideal. Did we mention it was rich?
We also tried the spicy miso version, and while it was enjoyed, the shoyu tonkotsu won us over.
Perhaps the least exciting element of the meal was the pork buns, which seemed composed of reasonably well prepared ingredients, but was marred by an excessively sweet sauce.
There’s much left to try, including vegetable and pure chicken stock ramen options, as well as broth-less noodle dishes.
Service was pleasant and attentive, and the space was a pleasant distillation of the interiors of the coastal ramen meccas.
3456 Cleveland Ave, Columbus, OH 43224
Open daily 9.30am-7.30pm (10am-6pm on Sundays)
We’re a bit remiss in not having covered Asia Market before… they’ve been open since 1981. It’s a large, high ceilinged market featuring an eclectic array of goods that cater not just to Asian tastes but also offers plenty of Latino and African products. Curiously, they also have the largest selection of ‘vegetarian meats’ that we’ve ever seen including vegetarian pork belly. The photo below does not show the whole case.
Even beyond that, culinary curiosities abound. The frozen fish section is huge and varied, black skinned chicken can be found, as can octopi of all sizes. It’s a great browse, and a clean and well-stocked market.
To the right side of the store (relative to the entrance), sits a partioned area that acts as a small restaurant. There are seven tables, a TV and, notably, a high chair. The menu is very small and offers two appetizers (egg rolls and spring rolls), three noodle soups, bun cha gio thit nuong, banh cuon, and Vietnamese coffee.
The bun cha gio thit nuong was solid but not exceptional. It’s comprised of cold vermicelli noodles topped with salad, grilled pork, and egg rolls, and comes with the usual fish sauce based dressing to pour on top.
The bun bo hue was a bit disappointing. The broth was watery and heavy on the fish sauce but insufficiently meaty and spicy. Usually this dish is fragrant with lemongrass but that seemed to be lacking too. The beef was a bit of a lottery, a couple of pieces were tender and flavorful but several were inedibly chewy. There was some tendon and some slices of pork loaf but no pork blood.
The bun rieu – a vermicelli soup dish usually made with a crab and tomato based broth – was the highlight of the meal and the dish that we would go back for. It contained fish cake, shrimp (or crab?) paste, fresh shrimp and pork loaf, and had a pleasing dose of funk from the fish sauce and seafood.
Vietnamese coffee is the only beverage on offer at the restaurant. It’s made to order and comes either black or with sweetened condensed milk and can be consumed hot or over ice. Other (canned or bottled) drinks can be purchased from the store and consumed in the restaurant.
We probably wouldn’t recommend Asia Market as a destination for Vietnamese dining, but if you have some shopping to do and want to grab a bite while you are there then it’s good to know about. Our advice would be to order your food first, then shop and come back to the restaurant – service was a little slow.
3750 Cleveland Ave
Open lunch and dinner every day. Until 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on Friday and Saturday.
With the closing of Blue Nile in the north campus area, Ethiopian food had become an east side affair. And, while we like Ethiopian food, we haven’t craved it enough to schlepp out to Hamilton Rd. with any regularity.
The owner Niman knew that a larger proportion of the Ethiopian and Eritrean population were on the North side, unserved by a restaurant offering their national cuisine, and with the opening of his Cleveland Avenue restaurant, Addis, he has made the cuisine far more geographically accessible for them, and for us.
The dining room is clean and pleasant, in an orderly no-frills kind of way, and service is unwaveringly pleasant and eager to answer questions. The menu is tightly focused, with less than 10 dishes, though 10 more are understood to be on their way in the next couple of weeks.
While we’re eager to see what the menu expansion may bring, we were more than happy with what exists. We tried the mahbarawi platter with tibs, and added the zillzill tibs, a beef short rib dish. The mahbarawi platter also included 4 vegetable dishes and salad. All of the dishes are served together on a larger sharing platter with some hot sauce.
The tibs, a beef stew was, to us, the best rendition we’ve tried so far – spicy, complex, and delicious. The platter can also be ordered with chicken.
The zillzill tibs, on the other hand, was entirely new to us, and amounted to a tasty curiosity. It consisted of chunks of beef short rib meat, and the menu listed it as seasoned with garlic, black pepper, onion, and green chili. True though this may be, the flavor struck us as faintly teriyaki-esque… which was not bad, by any means, but more than a bit surprising.
Accompaniments included lentils, cabbage, and spinach, and all were up to snuff. The injera bread as good as any we’ve had, and was conspicuously fresh. Portions, as always with Ethiopian food are plentiful. Dishes are cooked to order and Niman was keen to point out that dishes like kitfo can be cooked to your taste – anywhere from rare to well done. We were also asked what level of spice we wanted. As is traditional with Ethiopian food be prepared to eat with your hands.
We also enjoyed Ethiopian tea and coffee and Niman told us that on Friday they prepare traditionally prepared Ethiopian coffee and offer samples to customers.
3872 E. Main St.
Open 8am-7pm Mon-Sat (closes at 6.30pm Wednesday)
Here’s a quick post on an east side food spot of note; La Bendicion is a fun little Guatemalan owned bakery that opened recently on the Main St.
The bakery sells a range of bread rolls, pan dulce (sweet breads), cookies and pastries. We really enjoyed a flaky pastry with a sweet cheese filling.
However, our favorite item was the freshly made churros. Obviously made by hand, they were the lightest, airiest churros we have found in Columbus and, still hot from the oven, they were absolutely delicious.
We’ve seen La Bendicion products on sale at Mi Bandera on 161, and you may see their wares popping up in other Latino markets around town. It sounds like they also make cakes although none were available to try during our visit.