2800 Festival Lane (near corner of 161 & Sawmill)
As is often the case in quality Asian restaurants in Columbus, Ba Sho shows different sides of itself to different people. Should you not be conspicuously Japanese, it tends to provide the menus that show you the items they assume you’ll prefer. Though this may be frustrating, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s intended as a courtesy.
And, should you be Japanese, an extensive a la carte (small plate) menu also shows up. One that, until recently, was only printed in Japanese, and even now may be a bit difficult for gaijin to get their hands on.
For a great example of this, see their salt-grilled (shio-yaki) items. Both the salt grilled tuna collar and yellowtail collar exhibited a wonderfully crispy char on the outside that concealed the almost creamily tender flesh within. The similarly prepared and distinctly non-rubbery ika-geso (below) has become my new favorite squid dish in town.
Ankimo (monkfish liver with daikon, ponzu, and green onions) is considered one of the great delicacies of Japan. Since Ba Sho is only the second restaurant we’ve encountered in Columbus to carry it, we had to try it.
We’re glad we did. With pleasantly mild overtones of both liver and fish, it was both firm and velvety, and was well accompanied by the tart tang of the citrusy ponzu.
The above represents the highlights of our orders from the a la carte menu, though much remains to be explored. Andrew Zimmern-style curiosity seekers may find additional interest in the natto, fermented squid, and grilled blowfish (fugu) skin.
On a visit with a Japanese-speaking friend, we were told of an off-the-menu dish well worth noting – kani zosui (crab & rice soup with egg, mushrooms, scallions, seaweed, shown below). Though it’s traditionally consumed when ill, we’d gladly partake of its deeply savory comfort-foody qualities on most any occasion.
Ba Sho has an abbreviated lunch menu featuring bento box specials, noodle dishes and katsu (fried panko crusted meat) options. Among those we’ve tried, all were perfectly fine and largely consistent with what you’d find at most Japanese restaurants in town.
Japanese restaurants in the US tend to lean towards being bright and somewhat upscale, but Ba Sho takes a more traditional route. The relatively dark, highly divided, and clean but somewhat cluttered space makes for one of the most genuinely Japanese restaurant environments we’ve seen outside of Japan. The space, plus liberal use of the a la carte menu, amounts to a short, delicious trip to the East.