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

Kolache Republic

kolache republic Columbus

Cuisine: Czech/Slovak by way of Mid-America.

730 S. High St @ Frankfort
Mon-Fri 7am-2pm, Sat 8am-3pm. Closed on Sundays.
614.928.3151
Website
Facebook
Twitter

So, kolaches. Texans assert that they’re a Texas thing. Minnesotans may claim that they’re spelled ‘kolacky’, and have dubbed Montgomery, Minnesota the ‘kolacky capital of the world’. Iowans… well, they make claims, too… yeah, thanks for the input, Iowa.

Czechs and Slovaks undoubtedly find this Yankee bluster cute, and as best as anyone can tell, are the actual originators of the pastry.

About the only thing anyone could reasonably agree upon is that Columbus has no claim to involvement with this promiscuous pastry, or at least, that is, up to now.

kolache republic

Kolaches are apparently the kind of thing people get homesick for, so with Columbus’s significant transplant population, it was only a matter of time before someone arrived with the fix. Enter Kolache Republic, a tidy new little cafe on South High in the Brewery District.

kolaches in columbus

For the uninitiated, kolaches come in two basic forms (and people with too much time on their hands even bicker about this, but never mind) – square sweets, and elongated savories. Both begin with a light, pillowy, white flour pastry. The sweets are topped, somewhat like a danish, with any of a variety of fillings, with the blueberry and lemon curd being among our favorites. The savories are filled with a delicious kielbasa or ‘hot hot hot polish’, come in 3 flavors, and take a form not unlike a pig in a blanket.

columbus kolache republic

We’ve enjoyed both varieties, both here and at the food cart of the same name that came before. They’re absolutely destination worthy, especially when paired with some of their Cafe Brioso based coffee drinks.

But Kolache Republic has something we like even more. Something that’s served as a special, that we wish were always available. Something that’s not a kolache. That item is the runza.

runza at Kolache Republic

Nebraska claims this dish, though the Germans deserve the credit. Yep, another one of those things. It’s a larger bun, something along the lines of 6″ in diameter, perhaps made with the same dough as the kolaches, filled with seasoned sauerkraut and ground beef. That may not scan like something that’d generate excitement, but I’d encourage you to give it a go. My wife thought it sounded unpleasant, but upon seeing mine begged for a bite and thereafter pronounced it delicious.

Solid sides and a sandwich are also available, making Kolache Republic an ideal lunch stop. Do check ‘em out!

Si Senor Sandwiches & More

peruvian restaurants Columbus Ohio

Cuisine: Peruvian

72 E Lynn Street
Columbus, Oh 43215
614.227.0070
Website (warning -has music)
Facebook
Twitter

Open M – F, 11:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturdays, noon to 4:00 pm

Click here to map it!

Si Senor, best known as a popular downtown sandwich shop, just relocated from Long Street to a new larger location on Lynn Alley. The “& More” in their name refers not just to salads and desserts but also to their weekly Peruvian specials. On Saturday lunchtimes, the owners offer Peruvian-style ceviche and a weekly Peruvian special.

The ceviche, which comes in two sizes, is made with small chunks of tilapia fillet, sliced red onion, hot peppers, aji amarillo (peruvian yellow peppers) and lots of fresh lime juice. It’s served with sweet potatoes, salad and sweet corn. It’s unsurprisingly acidic – the lime juice is used to ‘cook’ the fish – but we didn’t find it too spicy.

Si Senor Peruvian sandwiches

Weekend specials include dishes such as papa rellena, lomo saltado, adobo de chancho, arroz tapado and tallarin saltado con pollo y camarones. On our most recent visit the special was pollo saltado, a dish of sauteed chicken, onions, tomato, peppers mixed with soy sauce, Peruvian spices, and french fries, served with rice. As you can see from the photo below the French fries are stir fried into what amounted to a very hearty portion. We loved the caramelized onion and the flavors of this dish, though the chicken was perhaps slightly overcooked.

peruvian food columbus ohio

Another Peruvian speciality is the empanadas. Available daily, these are filled with ground beef, onions, garlic, raisins and hard boiled egg. The crumbly pastry shell is topped with powdered sugar, which creates an interesting sweet-savory dynamic. The empanadas are served with a wedge of lime and some house-made hot sauce, both welcome accompaniments. Overall, we liked these a lot.

peruvian empanadas si senor Columbus

You’ll also see Peruvian influence in the weekday sandwich menu. Our recommendations would be the chicharron Peruano with chunks of fried pork, pickled red onions and sweet potato mayo or the jumping beef sandwich with roast beef, sauteed onions and tomato, melted cheddar and avocado mayo. On Fridays you’ll often find the popular fish tacos as a special.

peruvian chicharron sandwich

If you still have room for dessert, Si Senor offers some Latin sweets including tres leches cake and flan. You may also find alfajores, buttery sandwich cookies with a homemade caramel filling in the middle (manjarblanco or dulce de leche), coated in powdered sugar.

Sichuan Hotpot

chinese food osu campus

1644 N High St (entrance is on Chittenden Ave)
Columbus, OH 43201
(614) 397-7493
Open 7 days a week, lunch and dinner.

Click here to map it!

Sichuan Hotpot is the latest addition to the campus area’s lineup of Chinese restaurants. Located in a tiny walk-up space on Chittenden Avenue that seats around 24 people, the owners have opted to provide a small, focused menu based upon, as their name suggests, hot pot. No General Tso’s, no orange chicken, just steamy, brothy noodle stew served with this disclaimer; ‘please be aware all hotpots are hot and spicy and may cause discomfort in some individuals’.

hotpot restaurant columbus ohio

All of the hot pots at Sichuan Hotpot include cellophane noodles (made from mung beans), seaweed, wood ear mushrooms (auricularia auricula), lotus root, dried beancurd skin, Chinese cabbage and bok choy. From that starting point, you can choose your protein (or a vegetarian option). There are 10 hot pot options in total: beef, lamb, shrimp, fish ball, shrimp ball, octopus ball, fish tofu, beef tendon ball, luncheon meat (aka spam) and veggie. All are priced between $5.99-7.99, and you can add additional proteins or enoki mushrooms for $1 each.

chinese restaurants in columbus

(clockwise from top left: fish tofu hotpot, beef tendon ball hotpot, lamb hotpot, luncheon meat hotpot)

Among our group of five, the favorites were the beef tendon ball (think flavorful meatball) and lamb (very lamb-y), with a couple of votes for the fish tofu (think mild fish cake) and the luncheon meat. The broth was very flavorful and would probably be classed as a medium spice level – additional chili sauce is available. Temperature-wise, all of our hot pots came to the table steaming and seemed to retain their heat surprisingly well. One bowl makes for a reasonably substantial meal.

chinese food ohio state

There are a few sides/appetizers to snack on while you wait for your hot pot to cool down: crunchy fried chicken, chinese cruller, spring roll and glazed crispy mantou (deep-fried Chinese steamed buns). The chicken was a little more greasy than crispy although the flavor was good, the spring roll was fine but not especially memorable and the mantou, served with a sweet glaze, could almost be a dessert. The cruller is light and crispy and works well dunked into the hot pot. The last (untranslated) item on the sides menu is a sweet Chinese herbal ice tea.

sichuan hotpot Left: glazed crispy mantou and spring roll, right: Chinese cruller 

For those in the campus area Sichuan Hotpot is a nice additional takeout lunch option.

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.

IMG_6019

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.

IMG_6017

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.

La Plaza Tapatia

IMG_5972

4233 Shoppers Lane,
Columbus, OH 43228.
(Close to the intersection of Broad Street and Georgesville Road behind the Westland Mall)
614.276.2806

Click here to map it!

We’ve been remiss in not posting about La Plaza Tapatia. We actually thought we had written about this restaurant/market combo before, but as we can’t find the post we apologize for holding out on you.

First the market: Plaza Tapatia is one of the largest Mexican markets in Columbus. It’s also our favorite. Consistently clean and well stocked, it features an impressive fresh butcher’s counter, an in-store bakery, and a large produce section. Dried goods, a snack counter and a fascinating kitchen-ware section round it all out. Some of our favorite things to purchase include: freshly made chorizo,  Koki’s tortillas (often freshly delivered and still-warm!), extremely cheap limes, avocados, freshly squeezed OJ, tres leches cake, paletas (Mexican popsicles) and pork rinds. More generally, though, we like that when we’re looking for a Mexican cuisine ingredient, no matter how obscure, we’re reasonably confident that we’ll find it here.

IMG_4239

The adjoining restaurant is open 7 days a week and during the week (Monday-Friday) they offer a large buffet for both lunch and dinner (9am-9pm). The buffet is divided into three sections: the first consists of soups, entrees and hot sides.  The second section is fruit and desserts. The third section is garnishes, salsas and tostadas. Warm corn tortillas are included with your meal and are brought to the table.

plaza_tapatia

The buffet varies a lot from day to day and there’s a wide repertoire of dishes. Highlights have included posole, pork in green chili sauce, Oaxacan beef chili, pork chops with spinach, huevos with nopales and sopes. There is always a variety of proteins that may include pork, beef, chicken, fish, eggs and beans.

plaza_tapatia2

In addition to the buffet there is a large a la carte menu with lots of meat and seafood options as well as an all day breakfast menu. The most popular dishes, especially at weekends are the parrillada and molcajete.

plaza_tapatia3

The parrillada (pictured above) is a true meat feast. While the menu claims that it feeds 3 to 4 people, we hardly made a dent in it with a group of 3. It consists of grilled chicken, two different cuts of steak (carne asada and aguja nortena), house-made chorizo, head-on shrimp, fresh pork chops, smoked pork chops, nopales (cactus), onions and jalapenos and is served with rice and beans, salad, guacamole, salsa and a seemingly never ending supply of tortillas. All of this for the more-than-reasonable price of $40.99. Don’t fill up too much on the chips and salsa beforehand.

The molcajete ($20.99) is comprised of the same elements but designed to serve two.

If you’ve saved any room there are also desserts from the bakery including their exceptional freshly made churros.

IMG_1619

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the vast majority of what we’ve eaten here over the years, and the fact that we’ve returned with some frequency might serve to bolster your confidence in that assertion… especially when you consider all of the fantastic taco truck offerings in close proximity.

Which is not to say that the taco trucks aren’t still enjoyed – they most certainly are – but rather that their offerings are inherently limited by their format. Tapatia does a great job of expanding the wide variety of the flavors of Mexico that can be found in Columbus.

It should also be noted that the restaurant does have a liquor license and serves a good range of Mexican beers and tequilas. They also serve margaritas, micheladas, and other Mexican cocktails. On Sundays you’ll often find Norteno or Mariachi bands and the restaurant can get quite lively when there’s a big Mexican soccer game on. It’s a spacious restaurant that can easily accommodate larger groups.

IMG_4664

Siem Reap

Cusine: Cambodian/Thai

375 Georgesville Rd, Columbus OH 43228
624.279.2903
siemreaprestaurant.biz
Open Mon, Wed, Thurs, 11am-midnight, Fri-Sat, 11am-2am, Sunday 11am-10pm. Closed on Tuesdays.

Click here to map it!

We write up, on average, only one out of every four restaurants we try. Simply put, our goal is to tell you about the good in what’s out there. If we’re unable to find something we’d feel compelled to share with a friend, we’re not likely to share it here.

Even with that batting average established, we’ve had a particularly rough streak this summer (as you may have guessed by the frequency of our posts).  And, many of these unwritten experiences came from new restaurants serving some variation or another of Southeast Asian cuisine. We’ve had “pad thai” served as spaghetti noodles pan fried in what tasted of nothing more than soy sauce, eye poppingly gorgeous Vietnamese presentations almost completely devoid of any recognizable Asian (or other) flavors, and been presented with menus with dishes numbering in the hundreds… each more insipid than the last.

I suspect much of this comes from a desire to please the American palate – to reinvent Thai or Vietnamese as the Chinese have successfully done with their cuisine – and is attempted under the assumption that this is easily achievable.

It just isn’t working.

What is working is Siem Reap – an unassuming new Cambodian/Thai restaurant found in the shadows of the new casino, and named after a town in Cambodia situated next to a far more impressive edifice.  After a season of kissing frogs, this restaurant is sweet sweet redemption.

Our first clue to the goodness to come was the menu – not so much the items themselves, but more that the relatively modest number of items listed indicated that they weren’t trying to be everything to everyone.

Our next clue was the lagniappe – a small salad of pickled carrots, daikon, and green papaya garnished with roasted peanuts. A simple dish, and a perfect flavor combo to set the tone for the evening.

Sitting proudly atop the appetizers list were the stuffed chicken wings – a new concept to me, and one that I’m more than glad to be acquainted with. Four plump wings arrived, deboned and stuffed with what amounted to a spicy, lemongrass inflected chicken sausage threaded with glass noodles.  Juicy, complexly flavored, and sizable, each of the six at our table deemed these absolutely brilliant.  We ordered seconds. You want these, preferably now.

The beef skewers were far from the typical, anemic satay chew toys. These were actually very good, with the subtle marinade allowing the exceptional flavor of the conspicuously high quality beef to shine through. Add on the skillfully controlled char, and we were left wondering if we’d been temporarily transported to Fresh Street.

The larb – a cold minced chicken salad marinated in a lime sauce – was pleasant enough on its own merits, but didn’t have the bright citrusy punch of the (to me) preferable Thai preparation.

Our selection of mains was strongly influenced by the cold weather, which led us to rice soup and the curry ‘fondue’ hot pot. The rice soup was a pleasant, vaguely congee-like concoction served in a rich and somewhat sweet broth with pho-like sides of herbs, lime wedges, and bean sprouts. Chinese-style savory crullers were also provided, and cubes of pigs blood were an option.

Nothing could’ve prepared us for the hot pot – essentially a simmering curry broth in which you cook food from the astounding piles presented with it. We’ll let the photos do the talking here:

The vegetable plate

The proteins plate

The whole shebang: veggies, proteins, and the simmering curry broth

If the photos don’t convey it adequately, let me be clear: this almost certainly would’ve been enough to feed all six of us; we actually had leftovers enough to feed two.

It also impressed us, once again, with the freshness and quality of the raw ingredients. The broth, an exceptionally mild curry liberally dosed with fish sauce,  seemed the perfect seasoning for everything… save, perhaps oddly, for the beef.

Vegetables were scooped in, squid and shrimp bathed, and beef quickly swished around. We were instructed that the pork rinds – an intriguing inclusion – were to be soaked until soft. That took some time, but was well worth it as the flavor was exceptional.

As was most everything else. It was good, and fun, and an absolute steal at $25.95.

We finished with two fine, if unexciting desserts (to be fair we might’ve thought better of them were we not so stuffed…) – sesame balls with yellow bean paste a coconut/rice jello dish.

So, to wrap up: 6 people ate staggering quantities of thoroughly enjoyed food, and paid $75 in total for all of it. Service was pleasant, knowledgable, and prompt. The space was clean and pleasant.

In it’s west side environs, Siem Reap is nothing less than an oasis in a culinary desert (mobile food excepted, of course). Do check them out.