6823 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43213-1516
Phone: (614) 861-3515
Monday – Friday: 11am – 9pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11:30am -9pm
A couple of us had heard rumors of an excellent Chinese restaurant on the East Side called Lai Lai. Being that it was hard to pin down specifics such as their regional cuisine specialty, our interest was piqued and we headed east on a recent week night to see what the fuss was all about. Since there were seven of us, we were able to order quite a bit and get a good feel for their menu. We were a little disappointed to find out that there was not a separate Chinese menu, but after a little conversation with the owner who hails originally from Taiwan, we were assured that there were items with a more authentic flavor and that if need be, the kitchen would prepare special requests with a days notice. First up, the appetizers.
We were impressed with how quickly the food came out but it might have been because we were one of two tables in the well decorated and spacious dining room. The entrees:
The Smoked Duck was by far everyone’s favorite at the table. So much so that we ordered another serving of it. The duck is placed into these taco-shaped buns (bao), maybe with a smear or two of hoisin sauce, and eaten immediately. While some of us opted out of the bao (it was tough, especially when it got cold), the flavor of the duck was spot on, infused with tea smoke and much like ones I’ve had in Asia.
The Taiwanese Style Noodle was more wet than we were used to seeing and nothing in the flavors jumped out at us as particularly Taiwanese. This is a good detour if you’d like to try something other than Lo Mein.
Coming from a group of adventurous eaters, we were all surprised to see that the Twice Cooked Pork was very lean. Traditionally made from pork belly, Lai Lai makes their’s with lean pork to make it more accessible to their customers. This was also more saucy than we were used to.
Any respectable Chinese restaurant has to have excellent greens that are simply stir-fried. Lai Lai was no exception: one of the first plates to be cleaned, the Shanghai Bok Choy (also known as baby bok choy) was still crispy with just a hint of garlic.
The Sa Cha Beef with Choy Sum was also well received. The owner offered to make us this dish off the menu since we were looking for more Taiwanese flavored dishes. Sa Cha is a type of condiment similar to oyster sauce but with a smokier and seafood-y flavor. Here, it is stir-fried with choy sum (closer to bok choy than Chinese broccoli) and beef. Though this was not as fancy as some of the above dishes, it was home-style and went great with a bowl of steamed rice.
We had hoped that the menu offerings would appeal to both novice and experienced palates with the inclusion of classic Chinese appetizers such as marinated cucumbers, vegetarian duck, and drunken chicken. Despite this, we cleaned every single plate and were so full that we didn’t get a chance to try the lauded desserts in Lai Lai’s display case. Our expectations were high but nonetheless, we had a good meal with great company. If we’re ever hungry, east of 270, we’ll be sure to keep Lai Lai’s in mind.