Category Archives: Chinese

Jiu Thai

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Chinese
787 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43214
614.732.5939
Hours: 11:30-9pm (Closed Tuesdays)

Lets not beat around the bush – we love Jiu Thai. We’ve been going there for years, and it’s absolutely criminal that we haven’t written about them until now. Our list of favorites dishes is long, and yesterday we found yet another one.

Specifically, the stir fried lamb ribs. The name is a bit deceiving, since it’s clearly a riff on the cumin lamb found in most restaurants with a Sichuan menu, but for us it’s now the benchmark. The chunks of lamb are thick enough to showcase the flavor and quality of the meat, and their relatively dry stir fry char is spot on. They, along with green peppers and onions, are covered in a Sichuan spice mix that was both instantly recognizable and clearly preferable to previous renditions. With a little spicy heat and a little Sichuan peppercorn zing, it made everything on the plate sing in a way that was almost startling. In a very good way.

We’re not going to get into the details of the rest of the dishes, since it isn’t really the essence of this exercise. Just understand that thick, rustic hand made noodles and dumplings are a mainstay, and that we enthusiastically vouch for the following:

Biang biang noodles (our most frequently ordered dish)

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Pork with picked cabbage or Lamb & onion dumplings

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Xi’an steamed cold noodles

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Big Guy Noodles (and the other noodle soups with hand made noodles)

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Cucumber Salad

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Delicious pork sandwich

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The skewers are fun too.

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Menu is online via postmates. They do a lot of delivery via Ricepo and Amazon Restaurants too.

PS: Here’s the skilled hands in the kitchen at Jiu Thai making handmade noodles.

Enjoy!

 

 

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China House (Westerville)

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5860 Westerville Rd, Westerville, OH 43081
(614) 899-2882

A theory: the further a Chinese restaurant is from OSU, the harder it is for the proprietors to believe that non-Chinese guests could appreciate their traditional preparations. China House is about as far from campus as any restaurant in Central Ohio with a Chinese menu could be, and, well, yes, yes we can use chopsticks. Honestly! We would like to, too. 

Please?

With the sustained application of polite insistence, the desired menus and utensils were acquired. Further efforts yielded these 4 dishes: Broccoli with Lily Bulbs, Seafood Longevity Noodles, Beef Stew Radish, and Wen Chang Chicken. 

We eat a lot of green vegetable preparations in Chinese restaurants, and none have been better than China House’s Broccoli. It’s Chinese broccoli, of course, and the minced lily bulbs made for an intriguing water chestnut-like accompaniment, but the real trick was of a goldilocks nature – not too oily, not too dry, not too salty, not too bland. And, the broccoli wasn’t over cooked (or undercooked!). Just right.

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Beef Stew (with) Radish is a common sight on menus geared towards a Chinese audience. China House’s version was entirely in keeping with previous experiences, featuring tender beef, beef tendon, large chunks of radish, some veg, all in nice thick gravy redolent of Chinese 5 spice. Those of us who enjoy the traditionally assertive 5 spice flavor and are comfortable with the texture of tendon gave it a solid thumb’s up. 

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Seafood Longevity Noodles were a bit divisive – everyone appreciated the flavor and enjoyed the generous portions of shrimp and scallops within, but the mushy texture of the noodles was both argued to be typical of the genre and, to several of us, thought unpleasant.

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The Wen Chang Chicken confounded. It was half a chicken, butchered whole and bone-in, plus head! So far so good – jibes with previous experiences. But, it was covered with what we’re pretty sure was egg roll dipping sauce. There was lots of excessively polite discussion regarding this curiosity at the table, but when we left it was largely untouched. 

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In summation: Four dishes – two hits, two misses. The menu is large, and more exploration would likely yield more gems. Help us!

Menu:

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Does Columbus have any ‘real’ Chinese food?

This question finds its way to us with increasing frequency, both online and in person, from dismissive newcomers to Central Ohio as well as jaded locals. We have plenty to say about it, but first, lets talk about this idea of what’s ‘real’. 

‘Real’, in this context, is almost always used as a synonym for ‘authentic’. To the extent that anyone has the authority to categorize any Chinese food as authentic, it certainly isn’t us. 

What we can do, though – with a little help from our friends – is to distinguish the restaurants that are cooking menu items for the Chinese palate from those that are not. In other words, while we’re not fools enough to believe that we can measure any given restaurant’s success in maintaining absolute fidelity to Chinese culinary tradition, we do believe that our merry band of grazers can discern the intent to appeal to a Chinese audience. And, we can share our thoughts on what we enjoy.

OK, so back to the original question. We have to admit that it evokes a mild sense of indignation in us, as we’ve been enjoying the fruits of many of the city’s delicious Chinese kitchens for years – often with Chinese dining companions – and have felt some measure of pride in the range of options available to a city of our size. I mean, ‘Are there any?’ Of course! How many? 

Time to make a list. 

This was a process full of surprises. Once we made our initial list, and then continued searching, we were astounded by how much it grew. There’s an awful lot out there, and far more than we’ve had the opportunity to experience.

Sounds like a new food adventure to us! Over the next year, we’re going to visit/revisit each one of the restaurants on the list (linked below), and we’re going to try them with as many people as is practically possible so we can try as broad of a range of dishes as possible. We’ll post a brief accounting of each here, and hopefully put that pesky question to rest once and for all. 

The List:

Well, almost there. Please bear in mind that while we’re trying to be complete, we may not have caught everything. If we missed something let us know! Also, please understand that some of these restaurants will only have Chinese-American offerings shown on their website. You have to explore their broader menu in person to get the full story – which is exactly what we intend to do.

After the full list (which also includes markets and bakeries), we’ve taken our first stab at categorizing restaurants by their specialties. This will be refined as our adventure progresses, but is intended to illustrate the breadth of regional and culinary specialization found among the city’s Chinese offerings.

Columbus Chinese Food Guide 

Lotus Grill

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Crosswoods Commons, 150 Hutchinson Ave, Columbus, 43235
614.781.8883

The best reason to go to Lotus Grill is to get the salted pan fried pork. The second best reason is to encounter him. Adorned with bolo tie, long-sleeved country-western button up, and long black hair, he takes customer orders with an economy of words that evinces an Eastwood-esque stoicism, then abruptly punctures this facade as he barks orders back at the kitchen in a furious volley of rapid fire Chinese.

He is in possession of a Chinese menu, written entirely in Chinese. Our first visit to Lotus Grill made it clear he had not given much thought to the idea that anyone who is not Chinese would be interested in this menu. Acquaintance of ours have kindly translated it, and he now possesses that menu as well. We encourage you to ask for it.

Should you do so, you’ll likely be seated. To order from the posted English language Chinese-American menu is to receive counter service, to do otherwise often means full service. He’ll give you time to assemble your order, than he’ll return to the table to take it. Should you have questions, he might or might not have answers. No need to push it, or to sweat it too much – just about everything we’ve tried has been very good, and from our perspective there’s little risk in letting the food answer for him.

For example, ‘salted pan fried pork’ is at best a very incomplete description of our favorite dish, the aforementioned pork cooked with leeks, sliced hot green peppers, and Chinese black beans. With the nice sear on the pork and the pungent kick of black beans, savory doesn’t even begin to describe it. Delicious gets closer.

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‘Pork meatball soup’ translates better; it’s a bowl of comforting broth with noodles, tender Napa cabbage, and an abundance of tasty pork meatballs bearing a seasoning not unlike breakfast sausage. Nicely balanced, and perfect on a cold day, this has been another repeat crowd pleaser.

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Their stir fried seasonal vegetables are an exceptional riff on a common Chinese dish, featuring all of the expected garlic sauce flavor but a small fraction of the oiliness. Possible vegetable options include bok choy, Chinese broccoli, and ‘a choy’, and all play well with the sauce.

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If you’re open to the idea of eating unshelled shrimp (and in Lotus Grill’s hands, you should be) then their salt & pepper shrimp are a must. Battered and fried to an almost tempura-like effect, the shells were far less tough than expected and added a distinctly edifying intensity of flavor. A plate of these disappeared quickly.

Previous visits led to encounters with red-cooked beef, mustard greens with pork shreds (pictured below), kung bo fish, stir fried dry string beans, and more. All were solid, most were significantly better than, and our aggregate experience leaves us eager to explore even more of the 28 item menu.

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On our last visit, he was wearing a Star of David bolo with matching belt buckle. Struggling to put it all together – Chinese background, country western garb, conspicuous Jewish iconography, all one person – I finally had to ask.

“I like confusing people” was the reply.

I smiled. As you can probably gather from his prominence in this write up, a bit of harmless confusion suits me fine. Also, I really enjoyed Firefly.

Secret Vessel

Secret Vessel

2620 N High St, Columbus, OH 43202
(614) 636-4720

Hot pot is a term that is thrown around fairly freely in local Chinese restaurants – if a dish has a soup base and a source of heat beneath it to keep it simmering, most will list it as hot pot (at least in the English translations). As we understand it, however, Chinese patrons have a different definition, and it involves a significantly more elaborate set up. Secret Vessel is first restaurant in town to focus on cook-at-the-table hotpot.

Before we get into what that is exactly, it needs to be said that we stumbled into being Secret Vessel’s absolute first paying customers, and it was clear that they were not yet entirely up to full operating standards. They handled this with immense grace, and the food displayed so many unique and wonderful traits that we felt we needed to share our experience even at this early point in their evolution.

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So, back to hot pot, Chinese style, which is the vast majority of what Secret Vessel does. Broken down to its basics, there are 3 distinct elements – a broth simmering atop a table top induction burner, prepared ingredients on the side to dip into the broth, and sauces that you can dip your prepared ingredients into after they come out of the broth. All of these are customizable, and many options are available for each.

There are four broth options – Szechuan, Tomato, Hong Kong satay, and a clean, light Signature flavor. All can be had at one time in a bowl divided into quadrants. We did this, and found ourselves particularly enjoying the tomato broth, less than fond of the satay broth, and perfectly content with the other two. As broths become depleted, the attentive servers refill them. As far as we could tell there was no vegetarian broth option.

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The range of ingredients is vast, and is divided into 8 distinct categories – meats, seafood/fish, meatballs, bean products (essentially tofus), fungi (mushrooms), vegetables, ‘other’, and finally, combinations (assembled plates from the previous categories). We ordered the ‘angus boneless ribeye combo’ (beef slices, tripe, beef balls, tofu, cabbage, bean curd, white mushroom), and were given a couple of extras (shrimp balls, lamb slices) to, I suspect, gauge our reactions to them.

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Across the board, we were impressed with the freshness of the ingredients – it was conspicuous in the flavor of everything we tried, and elevated it well beyond anything we’d had before in a hot pot (or ‘hot pot’) setting. The lamb and beef were lovely, and both the beef balls and the shrimp balls were hand made in house (a rarity). Both were genuinely among the best things I’ve tasted in some time. Even the mushrooms and the tofu were transformed from something ho-hum into perfect flavor-packed bites after a few minutes of bathing in the tomato broth.

A wide range of sauces were clearly laid out on a bar, and as it was explained to us, the idea is that a customer who opts for the sauce bar ($2.99/person) can ladle multiple sauces into a bowl and mix them to their satisfaction. Being new to this game, we asked the owner to mix a couple up for us. We dutifully dipped our simmered mushrooms and the like into the sauces, admired the owners ability to concoct such edifying combinations, and ultimately appreciated the flavor of the simmered ingredients without the sauces (they struck us as good, but they served to cover the exceptional flavor of the ingredients themselves).

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Quality has a price, and in this case it was just under $60.00 for two. For all we were provided, the obvious labor involved in creating it, and the satisfaction provided, we’d call it a solid deal. We’re looking forward to returning, and especially to trying the full meatball assortment.

Jie’s Good Tasting

chinese restaurant grandview

Chinese
1413 Grandview Ave
Columbus, OH 43212
(614) 824-4657

In the former Grandview location of two short lived businesses – Yogi’s pierogis and Yi’s Bento Express – a new Chinese restaurant, Jie’s Good Tasting, has opened. They have 24 seats for dining in, though due to the cramped accommodations and chaotic, disorganized service, they’re probably best suited to take out.

Despite these caveats, there is a good reason to visit Jie’s, namely homemade dumplings that are easily some of the best in town. Ignore the menu and ask which flavors they have, as the menu is not necessarily representative of much of anything if our visits are any indication. On our last trip there were four types available: San Xian (our favorite so far – a mix of pork, shrimp and chive), pork and napa cabbage, pork and pickled cabbage (our number 2 pick) and pork and celery. 16 come to an order, they’re priced in the $7-8 range, and are served with a pleasant soy/vinegar dipping sauce. What makes them good is the thick but tender wrapper and the juicy and flavorful fillings. They go quickly.

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Also worth ordering are the dumplings in hot and sour soup and the spicy dumplings (smaller portion of 8 dumplings) pictured behind.

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The pan fried pork buns seemed to be popular with the large groups of Chinese students frequenting Jie’s but we found them a little too chewy and thought that the bread to filling ratio erred too far on the bread side.

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The menu offers a lot of the standard American Chinese take-out dishes (General Tso is present and accounted for) and a few more interesting choices. We enjoyed both the cumin chicken and the cumin beef. Both dishes are moderately spicy, fragrant with cumin and comprise chunks of meat with fried potatoes. Steamed rice must be requested separately.

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The za’ jing noodles, similar to Korean jajagmyun noodles, are boiled noodles served with a black bean sauce and here with your choice of tofu or shrimp.

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The tomato and egg soup claims to be made with homemade noodles but on the day we visited we were skeptical of the claim.

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If you love dumplings like we do, then a trip to Jie’s is worthwhile… just set your service expectations low. On both visits we found them to be more or less unfamiliar with diners basic expectations (flatware, water, bowls for soup etc).

Sichuan Hotpot

chinese food osu campus

CLOSED

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’.

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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.

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(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.

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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.