Category Archives: Restaurant

Charritos Mexican Grill

New Mexican restaurant in Upper Arlington

Cuisine: Mexican
4740 Reed Road #103
Columbus, 43220
614.929.5866

The opening of a new Mexican restaurant typically merits the same attention as the opening of a new Subway, and with good reason – if you’ve had it anywhere else, you’ve almost certainly had what the new place has to offer. The code of the American ‘Mexican’ food palate has long ago been broken, and the resulting template is impressively well established locally.

Charritos, however, bucks the trend. Sure, you can find sizzling fajitas, but you can also get real, street-style tripa and lengua tacos, or even a tlayuda. Even Mexico City-style spit roasted al pastor is on offer.

Mexican restaurants in Columbus

In other words, it’s true Mexican food with the occasional nod to more dominant local sensibilities. And, it’s quite good, which is unsurprising – as we understand it, the owner and his family run several restaurants under the same name in his native Oaxaca.

We first caught wind of this place when a friend suggested that the al pastor was better than at Los Guachos. Yeah, that’ll get our attention. We tried it in a chicana, which is a politically correct naming alternative to Guachos’ gringa, and we had to agree that it was damned solid rendition. The al pastor was impressively tender, nicely flavored, but lacked the flame kissed crusty bits that put Guachos over the top… at least on our visit. Beyond that, it was pure classic gringa/chicana satisfaction through and through.

Chicana at Charritos Mexican Grill

The tlayuda was a pleasant surprise, first because they had it at all (it was a special) and second because it was so different than what we’ve found elsewhere in town. The shell was distinctly unique – thicker, crisper, and overall better. The local preference for chorizo was not recognized, and a seriously tender asada took its place. Black beans coated the shell as usual, but a smattering of white beans finished it off on top. It’s a solid alternative to the more common (as in, two places carry it…) version.

Charritos clayuda

Ditto for the tripa, and the lengua, and on and on. The flautas were particularly enjoyable, stuffed with what appeared to be tinga-style chicken. The caldo de mariscos has never been my favorite dish, but it was at least as good here as anywhere.

flautas at Charritos Mexican Grill

In other words, Upper Arlington just got a taco truck cleverly disguised as a strip mall restaurant. Use it as such, and enjoy taco truck quality food in the comfort of a warm dining room this winter.

L’Appat Patisserie Cafe

L’Appat Patisserie Café
1159 Oak St.
(614) 252-6822
Website

L’Appat Patisserie in Olde Towne East is best known for its sweet treats, but owner Didier Alapini, has started offering a Pan-African day menu every Thursday. Didier is from Benin in West Africa but his weekly Pan-African menus span the continent from Morocco to South Africa and include all kinds of dishes. Here’s the menu from last week’s inaugural Pan-African day.

african food in columbus ohio

The menu will change every Thursday. Each week’s menu is posted in advance on their Facebook page.

“Panafrican Day” Menu (Thursday, October 3rd 2013)

Soupe du jour
Sweet Potato Soup (Zambia) $4.00
Creamy sweet potatoes, rice, fresh herbs, and spice soup

Sandwich du jour

N’Djamena Chicken Sandwich (Chad) $10.00
Sautéed chicken and bacon, in gruyère spinach sauce on ciabatta loaf, served with roasted potatoes

Entrees: (The first price is lunch and the second is dinner).

Black Olive Salad (Sudan) $9.00 $11.00 (with soup)
Mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and black olives with citrus vinaigrette.

Moussaka á la mauricienne (Mauritus Island) $13.00 $15.00
Lamb, beef and eggplant lasagna in eggplant sauce with salad and garlic bread

Dakouin (Benin) $11.00 $13.00
Grilled leg quarter with fresh tomato, green pepper and onion sauce served with Gari porridge

Fish Boulettes (Morocco) $13.00 $15.00
Fish meatballs in sweet peppers and onion sauce, served over vegetable rice

Here are a couple of the dishes that we enjoyed last week. Pavlova beef with a spicy peanut and spinach sauce, served with sweet potatoes and plantain. This Ghanaian dish was available hot or mild and the hot version definitely had a kick.

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Beef steak du nomade from niger – a panini style sandwich with suya beef steak and cheese. This was served with a large plate of roasted vegetables and potatoes.

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L’Appat is also offering a seafood night on Fridays.

Seafood Night Menu
September – October Special

(Every Friday Night only: 6:00pm -8:30pm)

Soupe du jour $5.50

*Salade Seychelloise $16.00
Shrimp, sweet corn, bell pepper and spring mix tossed in spicy vinaigrette
*Dish served with Seafood Barquettes and soupe du jour

Seafood Brik $22.00
Shrimp, sword fish, crab and vegetable in filo dough served with salad

Frites au poisson $18.00
Whole grilled Tilapia served with oven fried potatoes and salad

If you haven’t been to L’Appat we definitely encourage you to check it out. They have a really interesting (and good) assortment of pastries, cookies and cakes. The cafe is a nice light space, open for breakfast and lunch and their regular lunch menu includes soups, sandwiches and salads.

Lotte

Korean Market columbus ohio

Cuisine: Korean
4944 N High St, Columbus, 43214
614.885.3232
Facebook
Tuesday -Saturday 11-8pm (last order 7.30pm)

I have a sneaking suspicion that Korean restaurants are trying to hide from us.
The whole idea behind strip malls is that every storefront faces the parking lot, but Silla somehow manages to be tucked away behind a bar, accessible only by going down a forbidding path between the walls of two buildings. Arirang, another strip mall location, is a grocery with a restaurant in the back. You could shop the entire retail space without even knowing that the (essentially walled off) dining area existed. A solid restaurant with a primarily Korean menu on north campus hides in plain sight behind the name ‘Japanese Oriental Restaurant’. And, finally, does anyone remember the Korean restaurant on Lane & High in the ’90′s? It was stuck so far back in a building that the only way to get there was by going down a dank, dimly neon lit, vaguely Blade Runner-esque corridor.
lotte korean food columbus
Now there’s Lotte, an established Korean grocery with a new secret. Towards the back of their sizable retail area there’s an entry to a storage room. Enter, and you’ll see sacks of rice piled high among various other palleted goods. And a door. Enter that, and you’ll find their shiny new restaurant. And, if you’ve actually made it this far, chances are you’ve made your first mistake; you order at the grocery checkout, and take the receipt – which is your order ticket – to the employee working the counter in the restaurant.
lotte oriental food restaurant
The dining area is bright, clean, cramped, and no-frills. Like Arirang, water is self-serve from a dispenser and utensils are stored on boxes at the tables. Also like Arirang, the menu is small and largely focuses on better known Korean favorites, such as bulgogi, bibimbop, and kimbop. Service was brisk, and our orders arrived quickly.
korean grocery store columbus
All were solid, if not exceptional… at least until you factor in the pricing. Our group of 7 ordered the entire menu, ate almost to the point of bursting, took home leftovers, and paid just over $50 for the whole spread.
this is what happens when you order the whole menu
I’m tempted to think of it Korean fast food – it’s not the best, but it’s fast, cheap, and will take the edgy off of any Korean cravings.
lotte oriental new restaurant
Lotte probably has the widest selection of the three dedicated Korean markets in Columbus, including a large selection of prepared foods and banchan dishes. The staff are also helpful.
korean ingredients columbus
One last note – #5 on the menu is not translated into English, and it’s what we believe to be a regional Korean spin on kalbi tang stew (Woogeoji galbitang – beef rib and cabbage soup with soybean paste). This is the only place we’ve seen it in Columbus, and it’s a deeply vegetal beef broth soup with generous chunks of beef. Definitely worth a try if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary.

korean beef rib and cabbage soup

Khyber

khyber restaurant columbus

Cuisine: Pakistani

425 Industrial Mile Road,
Columbus, Ohio 43228
614.275.2022
Facebook

Click here to map it!

This is the kind of story we like to write.

A cook from a restaurant we adore – Adil from Tandoori Grill – strikes out on his own to open a new restaurant, Khyber, in a new part of town. The owner of Tandoori Grill, Said, wishes him well; we’ve spoken to both and there are clearly no hard feelings. The food at Tandoori Grill remains great, the food at Khyber makes for an impressive debut, and just like that the city has doubled in quality Pakistani dining options. As far as we’re concerned, everybody wins.

Khyber occupies the west side space that previously held Azteca de Oro. As with Azteca, environs are humble but comfortable. As with Tandoori Grill, a small Pakistani grocery with a meat counter adjoins.

Pakistani food columbus

Khyber’s speciality is tandoori dishes – grilled meats and nan bread cooked in the tandoor oven. The nan bread is cooked to order and, like at Apna Bazaar/Tandoori Grill, it is thinner, less doughy, and in our estimation far preferable to most other options in town.

pakistani restaurant columbus

Of the tandoori meat dishes we’ve tried, we particularly like the seekh (ground meat) kebabs – available in lamb, beef or chicken. They are nice and juicy, feature a good amount of spicing and heat, and are great paired with nan and a little of Khyber’s yogurt based chutney.

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Also tasty  are the chapli kebabs – burger-like ground beef patties with onions, tomatoes, chiles and spices.

pakistani food columbus

The menu offers some interesting meat stews and satisfying vegetarian options. Stews include nehari - a rich beef curry stew with extremely tender slow cooked beef; goat quorma - a mild curry with lots of gravy and a meat based curry with wheat called haleem, barley, and lentils. Not listed on the menu but also available (and one of our favorites) is aloo keema, a ground meat and potato curry.

potato and ground meat curry

A little drier (in terms of the saucing) but still entirely enjoyable are the karahi dishes – curried meat, either goat or chicken, with tomato, green chili and onion.

IMG_6023

For vegetarians, or as a great side dish for the tandoor grilled meats, there are lahori chana (whole chickpeas in sauce), mash dal (white lentil dal) or bhendi (curried okra). We particularly liked the okra and the mash dal. Adil said that there would be at least one dal available daily.

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The menu is expanding and there are often specials. In addition to the listed items we’ve also tried samosas, goat biryani, cow’s foot curry and house made desserts including kheer (fragrant rice pudding) and semiya halwa (sweet, spiced vermicelli noodles).

One interesting, and somewhat incongruous, item is the New York style gyro. Served as more of a deconstructed dish, it’s comprised of rice topped with lettuce, gyro meat, pita slices, and a generous saucing. Unconventional though it may be, we’d take it over the vast majority of the gyros we’ve tried locally.

new york style gyro

With the most expensive dish priced at $8, and many served for far less, Khyber is very good value for the quality of food and a great addition to the West Side.

Tandoori Grill

pakistani food in columbus ohio

Cuisine: Pakistani

808 Bethel Rd., Columbus OH
614.326.3777
Tuesday-Sunday 11:30am-9pm

When a place looks like this, and has great food, we’re all  kinds of happy:

pakistani take out food columbus

That said, we understand that perhaps not everyone feels similarly. However, when you take the same great food and serve it in a setting like this:

best pakistani food in columbus

…that should make everyone happy!

So here’s the story – when the space next to Apna Bazaar opened up, Apna’s owners pounced on it. They gave it the pictured makeover, named it Tandoori Grill, and evolved from functioning as a simple takeout counter to providing a true, full service, sit-down experience.

Tandoori Grill (and Apna – the takeout counter is still open) specializes in Pakistani cuisine, with an emphasis on tandoori-grilled protein preparations. If you’re familiar with northern Indian cuisine (most Indian served in Columbus is essentially northern Indian in inspiration), this should be comfortable territory for you.

Especially if you start with their tandoori chicken platter. The dish exhibits all of the traits one would expect from the style of preparation, but raises it to a level otherwise unfound in town. The char is restrained but present,  the marinade penetrates deeply and has a brightness and complexity of flavor that’s in a league of its own, and the tenderness is second to none.

tandoori chicken tandoori grill Columbus

It would’ve been the hit of the meal, were it not for the tandoori kabob karahi. This dish, made of ground chicken kefta-like kebabs that have been grilled, sliced, and tossed in a tomato based masala sauce,  had our table of 4 fighting over the scraps. It’s a bit on the spicy side, and a wonderfully complex melding of flavors and textures.

best northern indian food in columbus

On a previous visit we tried the fish karahi, and found it similarly appealing. The kitchen took obvious care in not overcooking it, and the distinct flavor and texture of the fish made for a dish that differentiated itself significantly from its karahi-sauced compadre.

best indian food in columbus oh

Our meal began with crispy, flaky samosa, one filled with a minced chicken mix, the other with a potato mix. Both were enjoyed, with our nod going to the chicken version.

best samosas in columbus

Rarely have we had such a satisfying meal and yet left feeling like there’s so much more to try, but we’re big fans of dishes such as pakora, tikka masalas, kormas, and seekh kabobs, and eagerly look forward to the chance to taste them.

Especially since we’re relieved to report that food at Tandoori Grill is every bit as good as Apna’s has been. Service has been on the ball on both of our visits, making for a complete and completely pleasant experience.

Read more about Apna Bazaar and some of their other dishes here.

Noora

persian restaurant columbus ohio

CLOSED:

Cuisine: Persian
8631 Sancus Blvd.
614.844.4444

Click here to map it!

Persian food at Polaris – who would’ve imagined?

We’ve made our way up to Noora’s Sancus Rd. location 3 times – the last with a gentleman who just returned from visiting family in Teheran – and each time found something new, interesting, and delicious.

And, each time, we couldn’t resist ordering (and reordering) the joojeh kebab. It’s not a complicated dish – it’s a cornish hen that’s been sectioned and grilled on a skewer – but, man, is it fantastic. The marinade is subtle but appealing, the meat is tender and succulent, and the controlled char puts it over the top. This experience, plus our visits to Jeddo Kebab, have led us to believe that Persian cuisine tends to have an unusually deft hand with poultry.

iranian food columbus ohio

Insofar as Jeddo is the only other game in town for Persian food (that we know of) comparisons are inevitable. Noora takes it by a hair in the poultry category, but falls a bit behind on some of the other kebabs. The beef kubideh, for example, was perfectly pleasant but didn’t have quite the harmony of spicing or depth of meat flavor that Jeddo’s version had.

ethnic restaurants near polaris

The apps – mostly dips – varied as well, sometimes even from visit to visit. The mirza ghasemi, a smoked eggplant and tomato spread, had a wonderful smoky flavor, but the texture varied significantly. No matter, though, as it was enjoyable either way. Their hummus was fine, and the kashk bademjan was enjoyable on its own merits but exhibited little of the whey that is intrinsic to the dish.

persian food columbus ohio

The real beauty of the dips is the delicious house made flatbreads that accompany. Towards the back of the dining room a bit of the kitchen projects forward – this area houses the tandoor oven in which Noora bakes the them. They’re wonderfully fragrant, with a crispiness that yields to chewiness, and the flavor ranges somewhere between that of an Indian naan and a saltine cracker.

noora restaurant polaris

Not unlike the joojeh, once we tried the Persian ice cream we couldn’t imagine forgoing it on return visits. Redolent of rosewater and saffron, and topped with crushed pistachio, it’s a rare ice cream surprise in a city that’s just about seen it all on that front. Oddly, on our last visit it came out in a bowl that sat on a plate drizzled with chocolate sauce. The chocolate makes little sense, flavor-wise, with the ice cream, but as it was separate it was easily ignored.

noora columbus

The space is pleasant and conspicuously clean, and features a raised seating platform where you can sit on provided pillows in lieu of chairs at a low table. Service was solid, if a bit harried when busy, and the management is personable and informative. Entrees range from $10-$20 (there doesn’t appear to be a lunch menu), and apps are generally in the $5 range. Vegetarian and vegan options are available.

persian food ohio

Yoshi’s Japanese Restaurant

Yoshi's Exterior

Cuisine: Japanese

5776 Frantz Rd., Dublin OH 43016
614.889.1275

Click here to map it!

Yoshi’s is reputed to be a popular restaurant destination for the Japanese folks living in town, and we expected to find enjoyable food. Spoiler alert – all true.

What we didn’t expect, though, was to be so thoroughly entertained by the proceedings.

A bit of background – we’re lucky to be able to rely on a friend fluent in all things Japanese (thanks, KC) for help with evaluating what dishes we should try. As such, we walked into Yoshi’s with a good deal of knowledge of the more unusual options on their menu.

So, long story short, we ‘order like the Japanese’. Or so said the perplexed hostess, prior to asking if we’d lived in Japan.

Before that, our waitress did a double take on a few of our requested dishes, politely explained what they were, and went to some effort to verify that we actually wanted them.

While we ate, we occasionally felt 3 or 4 pairs of eyes on us, as if to suggest, ‘they ordered it, but will they really eat it?’

If this sounds intimidating, it shouldn’t. All was smiles, conducted with a good natured curiosity and genuine concern for our experience. It culminated with Yoshi himself, on the other side of the sushi bar, peppering us with questions, offering up specials and tips on ‘off the menu’ items, and showing off some of his more exotic sushi preparations.

Maybe we have an odd sense of fun, but fun it was. We left with big stupid smiles on our faces, smiles smudged with things like this:

Yoshi's onsen tamago

That, in the image above, is onsen tamago. Reminiscent of an oyster shooter, this very soft boiled egg is served chilled and topped with a little seaweed and a light dressing. We were advised to slurp it down in one go, and very much enjoyed the how the soft egg white yielded to reveal the wonderfully custardy yolk.

Yoshi's tako wasabi

The tako wasabi was one of the plates that, upon ordering, raised eyebrows among the staff. It’s a simple dish – raw octopus marinated in wasabi and salt. It was, at best, moderately chewy, and tasted mildly of the ocean. Even the kick of the wasabi was surprisingly mild. It all came together beautifully, and we loved it.

Yoshi's moro q

We also loved the moro q – strips of cucumber served with a nutty and deeply savory miso relish. It’s a great example of how two simple ingredients can sing when they’re so perfectly matched.

Yoshi's shishito shrimp tempura

Then, we took Yoshi up on his offer to taste the daily special, shishito peppers filled with a shrimp pate and tempura fried. Think green pepper but subtler, shrimp flavor but denser in texture, and a pleasant contrast between crunchy and chewy.

Yoshi's okonomiyaki

Finally, we were let in on a secret – Yoshi’s often prepares a few servings worth of okonomiyaki. It’s not on the menu, and not always available, but it is emphatically worth asking about. Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake filled with shredded cabbage and (in this case) small bits of octopus, and topped with an okonomiyaki sauce, a mild Japanese mayo, and bonito flakes. Yoshi’s version was easily the best we’ve ever tried.

Yoshi’s also offers a wide variety of noodles, including soba, udon, and ramen.