5320 N High Street, 43214
Merlion is a new Singaporean restaurant that has opened with considerable buzz in the Graceland area of North High street. Much of the excitement surrounding it is due to the fact that Merlion offers dishes from a couple of cuisines (Malaysian and Singaporean) that have hitherto been unrepresented in the Columbus dining scene. Rightly or wrongly, the Singaporean owners felt that they couldn’t rely on their national cuisine alone, so the menu includes a mix of more recognizable Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Indonesian dishes as well as a few Singaporean and Malaysian specialties. We hope that they will add more Singaporean dishes in the future when they are more established.
Over the course of three visits we have been able to try quite a few of the menu items. There is one dish in particular that we would recommend (and it’s the dish that got a hearty thumbs up from our Malaysian friend) - Char kway teow mee. This is a dish of flat rice noodles stir fried with light and dark soy sauce, Chinese sausage (lap cheong), bean sprouts and some bok choi. We would recommend ordering without egg (which is apparently the more traditional version of the dish).
The Singapore laksa is a mild yellow curry flavor noodle soup with chicken and tofu. It is enjoyably soothing but perhaps lacks the heat and spicing that is normally associated with the dish.
Another mild curry dish is the Malaysian curry chicken with potatoes. We enjoyed the flavor but beware of the bones – this is chicken butchered Asian style.
One of the weekend only dishes is bak kut teh (the name translates as meat bone tea), a meaty soup with pork ribs, intestines, meatballs, tofu skin and fried tofu. The broth is sweet, fatty and flavored with 5 spice. It is also served scaldingly hot. It’s pictured on the menu as being served with youtiao (fried dough) but none was evident.
The other weekend-only special is Hainan chicken rice. A Singaporean dish of boiled chicken that seemed popular during our Sunday visit.
The restaurant is very small, and on our last Sunday visit was packed. Be prepared to wait at busy times or plan to take out.