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King’s Garden

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CLOSED: 9/30/12

Cuisine: Chinese (Cantonese)

7726 Sawmill Rd, Dublin, OH 43017
(Old Sawmill Square Shopping Center)
Mon – Closed, Tue-Sat 11am – 10pm
Sun – 11am – 9pm

Click here to map it!

King’s Garden has been around for a while, but what caught our attention was an ownership change that shifted the restaurant’s focus from Beijing-style Chinese to Cantonese-style. The new owners have a long history of running solid Cantonese restaurants in Columbus; the husband used to own Shangri-La on Cleveland Ave., the wife’s family use to own Wong Gei on campus, and her brother runs Yau’s on south campus.

Our eating team dove right into menu and test-drove some classic Cantonese dishes.

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Congee is rice cooked down with water at a very low temperature until it has a creamy consistency. This is usually served for breakfast and it cooked with different savory items like chicken, beef and etc. The version above is made with century/preserved eggs and pork. It was cooked to the right consistency and the subtle sweetness of the meat and congee was punctuated with the slight pungent taste of the century eggs.

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The pickled vegetable with shredded pork noodle soup usually comes with rice vermicelli noodles but this version came with the heartier wonton egg noodles. It was very satisfying with its salty, porky broth.

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This vegetable and pork noodle soup is different from the one above as this soup is thickened by eggs. The soup was velvety and the combination of the vegetables with the pork gave the dish a subtle umami taste.

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The seafood pan fried noodle was a welcome change after all the soft texture of the previous dishes. The noodle is quickly deep fried and placed at the bottom of the plate to be covered in a wonderful soy/oyster corn-flour thickened sauce.  The sauce will slightly soften the noodles but not completely so that you can have a wonderful combination of soft and crunchy texture.

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Normally I would never order fried rice in in Columbus because it almost always comes out to be a soggy oily mess. King’s Garden’s fried rice is the exception. This salted fish with chicken fried rice was the epitome of wok hei and skill of the chef. Every single grain of rice was enveloped by the heat of the wok resulting in a non oily and flavor packed dish. I can now rest in fried rice/wok hei peace in Columbus.

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If you enjoy tendons and brisket, the beef stew pan fried noodle is a must order. The tendons and brisket has been braised for hours turning them into buttery meat goodness and is a great companion to the pan fried wide rice noodles.  If tendons are not your cup of tea, you can order either the beef stir fried noodle or beef rice noodle with black bean sauce.

We were all extremely happy with the quality of food and pleasant service. The only downside for most of us is that this place is not in our neighborhood. For those who live in Dublin, this place should be your go-to Cantonese restaurant.

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Sunflower Chinese Restaurant and Lounge

dim sum in columbus, oh

Cuisine: Chinese

7370 Sawmill Road, Columbus 43225
614.764.7888
www.columbussunflower.com
For dim sum cart experience: Saturday & Sunday 11am-3pm

Click here to map it!

If you are looking for an alternative to your usual brunch of eggs, bacon and pancakes, might we suggest trying some dim sum. Dim sum is an assortment of small plates of savory and sweet things dishes or sometimes the combination of both. We won’t go into too much details regarding a how-to of dim sum since Columbus Alive did a pretty good write up with some help from the crew here at Alt Eats.

best dim sum columbus ohio
One of the more authentic dim sum experiences in Columbus can be found at Sunflower. Most of the food is served via trolley; to order just wave the trolley lady over and order by pointing at the various plates and steamers.

dim sum at sunflower columbus

Char siu pau (left) is a steamed bun filled with chinese bbq pork. This can also come in a baked form (the exterior will be brown). Sunflower’s char siu pau meets the basic criteria of fluffiness and the balanced sweetness of the pork. The other two things that you will see on every table are siu mai (center) and har gau (right). Siu mai is a steamed dumpling that is made out of minced pork and a little bit minced shrimp encased in a wonton like wrapper but the top is exposed and usually topped with some crab or shrimp roe. There is a beef version of the siu mai, but you have to specify beef because the default for siu mai is pork/shrimp. The har gau is shrimp encased in the delicate rice flour dough that becomes translucent when it is steamed so that you can actually see the shrimp through the wrapper.


dim sum sunflower columbus ohio

The ‘must have’ at Sunflower is the fried cheung fun (left). It is steamed rice crepes that have been rolled into a cylindrical shape and then pan fried with  some sweet soy sauce. The combination of crispy, soft, sweet and salty is amazing. The steamed version of this is stuffed with either pork or shrimp. Other fried dim sum options are the fried mochi dumpling also known as ham sui gok (center). The exterior is made out of glutinous rice pounded into a paste and them rolled out like a dough. This is stuffed with pork and mushrooms and then deep fried. To the far right of the pictures above is the wu kok or yam pastry. This crispy dumpling is yam stuffed with the same pork and mushroom filling as the ham sui gok. The difference is that that outer coating of this dumpling is very crispy due to the bird nest like breading and it uses yam as an encasement for the filling.

sunflower dim sum

Other typical dishes are the fried radish cake (lor bak ko), which is shredded radish combined with lap cheong (chinese air dried waxed sausage) and steamed into a cake. Then it is cut into rectangular sliced and pan fried on the griddle (pictured above). Below is Lor ma kai, a steamed package of rice with chicken, mushroom and chinese sausage encased in a lotus leaf. The filling varies by restaurants.

rice in lotus leaf, dim sum

If you are feeling adventurous, try the foong jow (chicken feet). It is deep fried first to get the skin and tendons to puff up away from the bones and then it is braised an sweet and salty combination of salted black bean, fermented bean paste and soy sauce. There is no dainty way of eating this, just suck the skin and tendons free from the bones, spit the little bones out and repeat.

Sunflower offers probably the best replication of an authentic dim sum experience in terms of both food and ambiance. There may be a dish or two that is of better quality at other  dim sum locations but for overall breadth of dishes and quality, Sunflower comes out on top.

Note: Dim sum is not vegetarian friendly as most products have either pork or shrimp in them.

Yuen’s

CLOSED
Cuisine: Vietnamese/Chinese
5270 Cleveland Ave
614-823-8880
www.yuensrestaurant.com

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Yuen’s is no new kid on the block – in their previous life the owners had a place near campus on Lane and High called Chinese Village Kitchen. Upon reviewing the menu, it is divided into two parts; the first being the usual American-Chinese fare and the other pages towards the back list Vietnamese and the Cantonese dishes.


The layout of the restaurant is clean and decor is heavily reflective of Chinese influences. The place is airy and has windows on 3 sides of the restaurants, making it a very pleasant place to dine.

We dove right into the back pages of the menu and ordered the beef tendon salad and the squid salad. The beef tendon was heavily seasoned with sesame oil and szechuan pepper and garnished with lots of cilantro. The texture of tendon was slightly chewy and slippery at the same time. This can be a challenging dish for some who may not be used to eating gelatinous textures. The squid salad came with a fish sauce and lime sauce and garnished with jalapenos and red onion. The squid was less than fresh and a little too salty that day.

As per our usual visits to restaurants with Vietnamese menu items, we ordered the bun thit nuong. It is essentially cold rice noodles with spring rolls, bbq pork, julienned carrots and cucumber, tossed with a light vinegary fish sauce laced marinade. This version was as good as we had in other Vietnamese places. There isn’t a tremendous amount of variation to this dish from place to place (perhaps save for Luc’s version), with differences typically being in the emphasis on the ratio of veg vs pork in the spring roll. This one leaned more towards the pork.


For our mains, the waitress recommend adding roasted pork belly in addition to the roast duck (both above). This is a very familiar lunch plate for those who have grown up in Cantonese-influenced household. A roast meat plate is very common for lunch, it could be any combination of char siu (bbq pork), siu yoke (roasted pork belly) and roast duck. The roast duck came doused with some plum sauce that gave us something sweet to counter the saltiness of the duck. It was slightly overcooked and that made the flesh tough and stringy to navigate. The pork belly on the other hand was quickly devoured by the table for its crispy skin and wonderful alternating layers of fat and lean meat. It was lightly augmented with some 5-spice powder and salt. Biting into the crispy skin produces a sound quite similar to the crunch of potato chips. To redeem our carnivorous ways, we ordered some stir fried snow pea shoots. Unfortunately the redemption was lost since the greens were overcooked.

On a separate visit, we decided to try more of their Vietnamese and noodle dishes. The one one the left is the Tieu Chau Style Rice Noodles Soup and the right is the Satay Beef Rice Noodles. The Tieu Chau was filled with slices of pork liver, minced pork, shrimp and fish balls, pretty much a kitchen sink dish. The addition of fried shallots on top gave it the dish some texture and lovely edge of savoriness. Overall it was a very slurp-worthy bowl noodles. the satay noodles on the other hand is on the other end of the spectrum. The sauce was all gloop and no flavor. The Woolf and I couldn’t pick up any distinctive flavor that would make it a satay sauce. Peanut – no (yes, there is sprinklings of crushed peanuts on top but there was definitely none in the sauce). Soy – maybe. Random brown sauce – yes. This bowl did not get a seat in the clean plate club.

Overall, there are a few good things on the menu but unfortunately it is dotted with more unsuccessful ones.  It was also hard to differentiate between the Chinese and Vietnamese dishes as there isn’t a specific call out to the Vietnamese dishes. However if you happen to be on 161 and craving some rice noodles, do stop by as they do have a pretty decent Black Bean Beef Chow Fun.

Mecca Market & Grill

Cuisine: Pakistani
2256 South Hamilton Rd
614. 501-1550

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Mecca started out as a grocery store and purveyor of halal meat.  When the latest owner took over the store, he decided to put a kitchen together and offer Pakistani food. In his own words,” I have meat and groceries in here, why not cook some food and offer take out.”

As you walk into Mecca Market, you will be greeted by the friendly owner and his staff. They are very helpful and eager to answer any questions about their groceries, halal meat and their menu.

Walking towards the back, you’ll see a meat counter and next to it is the counter where you order your food. Since this is intended to be a take out business, they don’t have a dining area set up in the store. However, if you really want to eat in, there is a card table that will seat about 6 people. Due to the small operation, not everything listed on the menu is available everyday. If you’re not up for simply trying whatever happens to be on offer, it is probably best to call ahead and see what is available.

Pakistani food according to the owner is  more intensely spiced than Indian food. But there are a lot of similarities with Northern Indian food because of the shared geographic region and with their use of the tandoor.

First up was the garlic naan. The naan had the perfect texture of being crispy on the outside and slighty chewy on the inside. It could have used a little more garlic but that depends on how much you like garlic. We had also ordered a plain naan as well and the execution of it was just as perfect as the garlic one. Plastic silverware was offered to us but we decided to use the naan and our hands for utensils.

We ordered a serving of tandoori chicken and batair. Batair is quail and it is a very popular fowl eaten in Pakistan. This is something that is not usually offered in Indian restaurants. If you see Batair on the menu, then you are likely in the hands of a Pakistani chef. Flavor wise, both birds were phenomenal. Intensely spiced and had the right amount of charring. The quail was definitely more tender of the two. It’s hard to say what quail taste like as the spices definitely overpowered the taste of the meat. However you can tell the difference by the texture. We will be ordering it again next time.

Next up was the goat curry. This was surprisingly not spicy and mild with curry spices. Overall it was very savory and went well with the naan bread which we used to sop up the curry sauce.

We ordered the briyani of the day which was the chicken briyani. The staff explained that briyanis takes a while to cook so they pick a different meat each day to make a pot of briyani instead of offering 3-4 types of briyanis a day. They are happy to take custom orders if you call in the morning for a pick up later in the day. The briyani was very fragrant with a deluge of spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, cloves and etc. The rice was perfectly tender and the chicken was nicely integrated with the dish absorbing all the spices and liquid that the rice was cooking in.

Lunch for 3 with two drinks came up to $20. Most dishes range from $5 – $10. There are a few vegetarian offerings like palak paneer and couple of aloo dishes. Best advice is to call ahead and check what dishes they are offering for the day or call ahead for a custom order. The people at Mecca are very accommodating and will cater and deliver their food for a function/party.

Dominic’s Jamaican Restaurant – Closed

Cuisine: Jamaican
2458 Cleveland Ave (On the intersection of Myrtle and Cleveland)
614.725.4735
Website: http://www.dominicsjamaicanrestaurant.com

Click here to map it!

Island cuisine isn’t something we run into often in Columbus. When someone brought in some Dominic’s takeout into a bar I was at a few weeks ago, I promptly attacked the poor man for more information and the take out menu. I was also trying hard to charm him into sharing some of his food with me, but all the winks and offers of free beer went unanswered. After eating at Dominic’s, now I know why the stranger refused to share.

TacoDrew and I ordered conch fritters for starters. (Conch in Columbus, we thought? It is a menu item not easily found fresh in Cbus) Our instinct were correct, the chef came out and apologize for the lack of conch and offered us cod fritters ($5) instead.

These fritters were similar in execution as hush puppies. Instead of cornmeal, we have a batter of salted cod, pickled onions, scallions and a small amount of flour. The accompanying sauce was freshly made with lots of the usual salsa like ingredients. However it slightly more tart due to the vinegar and it was a great counterpoint to the fried fritters.

For our entree, we ordered a medium sized curry goat ($8) and jerk chicken ($7). The entrees comes with two sides. We picked fried plantains and pasta olivonge for the goat, rice and peas and fried dumplings for the jerk chicken.

The goat was tender and falling off the bones and lightly season with curry powder. It can be made spicier upon request but we were told by the waitress that they eat it on the mild side in Jamaica. They really know what they are doing with goat here as it is devoid of the usual musky and uric properties that goat tends to have when handled improperly. The plantains were sweet and fried with skill as it was not greasy. The pasta was a nice surprise as it was refreshingly light and healthy with lots of veggies and the use of sun-dried tomatoes was lovely.

This is a jerk I would be happy to see. The chicken was tender, had a great smoky flavor and was well seasoned with jerk spices. There is an option for white meat for an additional $1 but we stuck with the recommended dark meat and did not regret that choice. The fried dumplings that came with it was a cross between a donut hole and a biscuit. It would have been best eaten for dessert with some jam. The rice and peas were amazing! I couldn’t stop eating it, then again I am a sucker for rice cooked in coconut milk. It was rich without being cloying and made the rice very fragrant.

Marlon and Andrew runs Dominic’s which is named after Marlon’s son. They were very friendly and hospitable and went out of their way to educate us about Jamaican food and showed us how they made jerk chicken out back. It is slow roasted over charcoal embers. Andrew told us that the secret to jerk is freshly ground pimento (allspice) and black pepper. The menu has quite a few vegetarian items but Andrew said that he has a longer list of vegetarian dishes in his head. So if you want vegetarian Jamaican grub, just ask Andrew for some suggestions. He does vegan too by request.

Needless to say, we will be back for more as there are some other traditional Jamaican dishes to explore like ackee, saltfish and oxtails. Dominic’s may be new to the restaurant scene, having recently opened in Feb 2010, but there are some old hands back in that kitchen brewing some island magic.