Category Archives: Restaurant

Noora

persian restaurant columbus ohio

CLOSED:

Cuisine: Persian
8631 Sancus Blvd.
614.844.4444

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Persian food at Polaris – who would’ve imagined?

We’ve made our way up to Noora’s Sancus Rd. location 3 times – the last with a gentleman who just returned from visiting family in Teheran – and each time found something new, interesting, and delicious.

And, each time, we couldn’t resist ordering (and reordering) the joojeh kebab. It’s not a complicated dish – it’s a cornish hen that’s been sectioned and grilled on a skewer – but, man, is it fantastic. The marinade is subtle but appealing, the meat is tender and succulent, and the controlled char puts it over the top. This experience, plus our visits to Jeddo Kebab, have led us to believe that Persian cuisine tends to have an unusually deft hand with poultry.

iranian food columbus ohio

Insofar as Jeddo is the only other game in town for Persian food (that we know of) comparisons are inevitable. Noora takes it by a hair in the poultry category, but falls a bit behind on some of the other kebabs. The beef kubideh, for example, was perfectly pleasant but didn’t have quite the harmony of spicing or depth of meat flavor that Jeddo’s version had.

ethnic restaurants near polaris

The apps – mostly dips – varied as well, sometimes even from visit to visit. The mirza ghasemi, a smoked eggplant and tomato spread, had a wonderful smoky flavor, but the texture varied significantly. No matter, though, as it was enjoyable either way. Their hummus was fine, and the kashk bademjan was enjoyable on its own merits but exhibited little of the whey that is intrinsic to the dish.

persian food columbus ohio

The real beauty of the dips is the delicious house made flatbreads that accompany. Towards the back of the dining room a bit of the kitchen projects forward – this area houses the tandoor oven in which Noora bakes the them. They’re wonderfully fragrant, with a crispiness that yields to chewiness, and the flavor ranges somewhere between that of an Indian naan and a saltine cracker.

noora restaurant polaris

Not unlike the joojeh, once we tried the Persian ice cream we couldn’t imagine forgoing it on return visits. Redolent of rosewater and saffron, and topped with crushed pistachio, it’s a rare ice cream surprise in a city that’s just about seen it all on that front. Oddly, on our last visit it came out in a bowl that sat on a plate drizzled with chocolate sauce. The chocolate makes little sense, flavor-wise, with the ice cream, but as it was separate it was easily ignored.

noora columbus

The space is pleasant and conspicuously clean, and features a raised seating platform where you can sit on provided pillows in lieu of chairs at a low table. Service was solid, if a bit harried when busy, and the management is personable and informative. Entrees range from $10-$20 (there doesn’t appear to be a lunch menu), and apps are generally in the $5 range. Vegetarian and vegan options are available.

persian food ohio

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Yoshi’s Japanese Restaurant

Yoshi's Exterior

Cuisine: Japanese

5776 Frantz Rd., Dublin OH 43016
614.889.1275

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Yoshi’s is reputed to be a popular restaurant destination for the Japanese folks living in town, and we expected to find enjoyable food. Spoiler alert – all true.

What we didn’t expect, though, was to be so thoroughly entertained by the proceedings.

A bit of background – we’re lucky to be able to rely on a friend fluent in all things Japanese (thanks, KC) for help with evaluating what dishes we should try. As such, we walked into Yoshi’s with a good deal of knowledge of the more unusual options on their menu.

So, long story short, we ‘order like the Japanese’. Or so said the perplexed hostess, prior to asking if we’d lived in Japan.

Before that, our waitress did a double take on a few of our requested dishes, politely explained what they were, and went to some effort to verify that we actually wanted them.

While we ate, we occasionally felt 3 or 4 pairs of eyes on us, as if to suggest, ‘they ordered it, but will they really eat it?’

If this sounds intimidating, it shouldn’t. All was smiles, conducted with a good natured curiosity and genuine concern for our experience. It culminated with Yoshi himself, on the other side of the sushi bar, peppering us with questions, offering up specials and tips on ‘off the menu’ items, and showing off some of his more exotic sushi preparations.

Maybe we have an odd sense of fun, but fun it was. We left with big stupid smiles on our faces, smiles smudged with things like this:

Yoshi's onsen tamago

That, in the image above, is onsen tamago. Reminiscent of an oyster shooter, this very soft boiled egg is served chilled and topped with a little seaweed and a light dressing. We were advised to slurp it down in one go, and very much enjoyed the how the soft egg white yielded to reveal the wonderfully custardy yolk.

Yoshi's tako wasabi

The tako wasabi was one of the plates that, upon ordering, raised eyebrows among the staff. It’s a simple dish – raw octopus marinated in wasabi and salt. It was, at best, moderately chewy, and tasted mildly of the ocean. Even the kick of the wasabi was surprisingly mild. It all came together beautifully, and we loved it.

Yoshi's moro q

We also loved the moro q – strips of cucumber served with a nutty and deeply savory miso relish. It’s a great example of how two simple ingredients can sing when they’re so perfectly matched.

Yoshi's shishito shrimp tempura

Then, we took Yoshi up on his offer to taste the daily special, shishito peppers filled with a shrimp pate and tempura fried. Think green pepper but subtler, shrimp flavor but denser in texture, and a pleasant contrast between crunchy and chewy.

Yoshi's okonomiyaki

Finally, we were let in on a secret – Yoshi’s often prepares a few servings worth of okonomiyaki. It’s not on the menu, and not always available, but it is emphatically worth asking about. Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake filled with shredded cabbage and (in this case) small bits of octopus, and topped with an okonomiyaki sauce, a mild Japanese mayo, and bonito flakes. Yoshi’s version was easily the best we’ve ever tried.

Yoshi’s also offers a wide variety of noodles, including soba, udon, and ramen.

Ba Sho

Ba Sho japanese restaurant

Cuisine: Japanese

2800 Festival Lane (near corner of 161 & Sawmill)
614.766.7733
website

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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.

Don’t relent. At minimum, you’ll want the option of ordering from this menu (front, and back). It’s a big part of what makes Ba Sho distinctly different from every other sushi joint in town.

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.

salt grilled squid ika

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.

ankimo monkfish liver

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 kani zosui

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.

Helen’s Asian Kitchen

Cuisine – Chinese

1070 E. Dublin Granville Rd. 43229
614.987.5121
website

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In a nutshell, there are 3 things worth knowing about Helen’s:

1) They serve some great Chinese dishes including soup dumplings, the first we’ve encountered in Columbus.
2) As good as Helen’s is, it promises to get better in some interesting and exciting ways.
3) Well… we’ll leave #3 to the end of this write up.

Regarding point #1 – Dumplings are a distinct specialty of the house. There are quite a few on the menu – shao mai (AKA shu mai),  boiled pork, shrimp, and vegetable varieties, and steamed beef.  All of these were enjoyed, with special nods going to the boiled beef dumplings and the Shanghai style shao mai.

But the dumpling we came for was the xiaolong bun (aka xiaolong bao, and spelled either way they’re the aforementioned soup dumplings). They’re the rage in Chinatowns all over the US, and some in our group of 6 had been craving them since visiting China and trying them there. An uneasy mix of anticipation – I want a good soup dumpling! – and dread – these are going to be a disappointment, aren’t they? – lingered at the table.

Xiaolong Bao - Soup Dumplings

And then they arrived. To my eye they didn’t look like anything special, but then again, from my perspective Chinese dumplings rarely do. They’re delicate, and partially filled with a broth, so great care is required in moving them from the steamer basket to your plate without puncturing the wrap and creating a leak. The pros in the group took a small bite out of the wrapper, slurped from the rich broth contained within, and… declared Helen’s soup dumplings a winner.

It’s easy to see why. The broth is unfathomably rich and delicious, and the experience finishes with eating the wrapper and the pork-sausage-like nugget within that’s been marinating in the broth. Absolutely memorable, and a steal at 10 dumplings for $7.50.

Having more than satisfied our dumpling desires, we moved on to a few of Helen’s other dishes. Her crispy pork pan-fried noodles were deemed an excellent example of the genre, and the Chinese broccoli dish made for a satisfying counterpoint to all of the richness that came before.

On to #2 – Good as it already is, Helen made a point of letting us know that her restaurant is a nonetheless a work in progress. House-made noodles are an anticipated addition, Chinese hot pots are a promised future offering, and even dim sum may be in the cards. Some of these additions sound as though they’re related to the impending arrival of Helen’s husband from China.

Alright, now for #3. It a point that seems silly to make much of, but once inside it’s something that’s hard to ignore. Helen’s occupies a large and meticulously clean stand-alone space… that clearly was previously a strip club. Mirrored walls, a stage, and some curious lighting are clear indicators of the building’s previous purpose. Once seated, this may strike you as curious, entertaining, or perhaps even vaguely unsettling, but it won’t go unnoticed and it’ll very likely lead to some lively dinner table conversation.

At least until the food comes out, at which point I feel confident in saying that Helen’s kitchen chops will quickly become the focus. We’re thoroughly enthused by her current offerings, eager to see what’s to come, and highly recommend checking Helen’s Asian kitchen out.

Pho Saigon

vietnamese restaurants columbus ohio

Cuisine: Vietnamese

5644 Columbus Square (part of Asian Grocery)
614.818.4499
Sunday-Thursday 9am-9pm, Friday & Saturday 9am-10pm

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Pho Saigon is the third Vietnamese restaurant in the Columbus Square area. Bearing that in mind, we were pleased to see that they were offering some well turned-out Vietnamese dishes that are not only unique to the immediate area, but to Columbus overall.  The restaurant may also hold the honor of being the longest and skinniest restaurant in Columbus – it’s little more than a sliver partitioned off from one side of the Asian Grocery.

saigon pho columbus
The first thing that caught our attention was the half moon cake (banh xeo – pronounced banh SAY-oh) probably better translated as half moon crepe. This is a crispy savory crepe made of rice flour and tinted with tumeric. Apparently the name means ‘sound crepe’ due to the noise the of batter hitting the hot pan. It is filled with pan fried shrimp, pork, onion and peeled mung beans. The crepe is served with a plate of lettuce leaves and herbs such as mint, basil and shiso and accompanied with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce (nuoc mam pha). To eat it you wrap pieces of the crepe in the lettuce leaves and add herbs and the dipping sauce to taste. I loved the flavor and texture combination.

chao long savory rice with pork offal
The next unusual dish that caught our eye was chao long (porridge with pork organs). This Saigon specialty is a type of congee – a savory rice soup in which the rice is cooked until it achieves a porridge-like consistency. Pho Saigon’s version was very flavorful and we guessed that it was cooked with broth and not just water. It was topped with cubes of congealed blood, blood sausage, slices of tongue and slices of pork intestine and then garnished with thinly sliced scallions and finely ground black pepper. I promise that it tasted so much better than it sounds, and was actually very comforting. If offal isn’t your thing, you can also order it with duck or chicken. Chao long is served with pieces of light, crispy deep-fried croutons, bean sprouts, and lime wedges.

columbus vietnamese food

We also ordered the bun bo hue (Hue style beef noodle soup) which we loved. This beef soup is actually made with pork as well as beef. The broth is seasoned with lemongrass, shrimp sauce and chili, but the heat was fairly mild (you could add more). It was topped with slices of onion and cilantro but came accompanied by a plate of finely sliced banana flowers, sliced water spinach stalks, lime wedges and Thai basil.

Although the market is well established, Saigon Pho opened very recently and the menu is fairly limited. We were very pleased with what we tasted so far. Other menu items are:

Goi quan (Vietnamese spring roll)
Cha Gio (Vietnamese egg roll)
Gio dudu (Vietnamese papaya salad)
Pho Bo (beef noodle soup)
Bun Cha Gio (rice vermicelli with egg rolls)
Canh ga chien (spicy crispy chicken wings)
Goi go sen (lotus root salad)
Com chien (fried rice)
Com suon truong opla (pork chop with egg)

Westgate Thai

Cuisine: Thai

3201 Sullivant Ave., Columbus OH
614.458.1165
Open 10am – 8pm, daily except Tuesday.

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Thai restaurants have been found in and around Columbus for quite some time, but… ummm, how should we put this… unadulterated Thai has been thin on the ground with Bangkok as the only game in town. But with the recent opening of Erawan, and now Westgate Thai, the full flavors of Thailand are steadily working their way into the city’s consciousness.

Westgate Thai operates out of the Westgate Import Market, and occupies the kitchen and dining area that previously hosted the lovably improbable ‘Lindo Mexican/Cambodian restaurant’ (the signage for Lindo is still up, if you find it you’ve found Westgate). Accommodations are basic, with perhaps 16 seats in total, but service is consistently kind and thorough.

The entirety of the staff consists of a husband and wife duo, with the wife in the kitchen and the husband manning the front of house. Given the small size of the operation, this has been more than adequate, and wait times have been entirely acceptable.

Pad Phrik King

The food’s been great. From the yum woon sen to the pad phrik khing to the nice selection of curries, we haven’t found a bad pick in the bunch… and we’ve probably eaten more than half of the menu. They’ll adjust for your taste in spicy heat, which is to say that if you like it truly hot they’ll be happy to take that as a challenge.

If, among the fairly wide selection available, you’re looking for a place to start, I’d recommend the khao kaphrao khai dao (my preference is with pork) – a potent shot of Thai basil mingling with garlicky porky goodness, served with an egg that’s been fried until crispy around the edges (but still maintains a runny yolk) and rice. Try it as the Thais tend to do, by constructing bites with pork, egg, and rice all on one spoonful (yes, Thais mostly use a fork and spoon at the table).

Yum Woon Sen

Prices are notably wallet-friendly – apps start at $.50, and entrees are generally between $5.99 and $6.99. Entrees are discounted by $1.00 for lunch business. We had a group of 5 eat to contentment and beyond, and walked out with leftovers on a $32.00 bill. A few vegetarian and pescetarian options are available.

We’d be remiss in neglecting to mention that Westgate Import Market itself is a worthwhile destination. Southeast Asian staples and curiosities make for great browsing (we rarely leave without buying something), and the family that runs it is friendly and welcoming in the extreme. They offer a variety of prepared foods near the checkout – we’ve particularly enjoyed the mildly sweet sticky rice desserts packed in lengths of bamboo.

El Salvadoreno Restaurant


Cuisine: Salvadoran

885 Hamilton Rd
(614) 338-0552
Hours: Tue-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri 11am-10pm, Sat 10am-9pm, Sun 10am-8pm

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Update, 4/30/11: Restaurante Salvadoreno has moved location (revised above), expanded their menu, and become ‘El Salvadoreno Restaurant’. More below:

They’re still the only Salvadoran sit-down restaurant in town, and they keep getting better. They’ve moved into the space formerly occupied by Indochine (who moved to a larger space down the street) and Latin Cafe, and this is emphatically to their benefit – the space is larger, cleaner, and going there at night feels far less intimidating.

The food has improved, too. While the fairly limited menu at the old location was solid, the new menu maintains the best of the old and expands upon it quite a bit. This includes the addition of more than a few Mexican dishes, but we chose to focus on the new Salvadoran preparations. We’ll highlight a couple of them, as otherwise we feel that the descriptions in the previous review still stand.

First up, the pastelitos de papa y pollo ($5.99 for 4), or, fried empanadas with potatoes and chicken, topped with curtido (a type of Salvadoran cabbage slaw) and a mild red sauce. The shell crunched like a thick tortilla chip, tasted better, and encased a delightful savory filling. Thumbs up from around the table.

Every now and again, we come upon the rare dish that a) we’ve never seen, heard of, or imagined before, b) in spite of its relative obscurity seems inevitably ‘right’ in its makeup, execution, and flavor, and c) emphatically validates our explorations. At Salvadoreno, this dish is the empanadas de platanos, or deep fried ripe plantain pockets filled with a custardy, mildly sweet cheese.

We’re usually far from dessert oriented, but this lovely little combination of caramelized plantains and silky dairy filling wowed us and had us asking for seconds… and left me thinking about a return trip upon writing this.

From 3/09/10:

As far as we know, the Restaurante Salvadoreno is the only Salvadoran restaurant in Columbus. It is (edit: was) near the airport on the same street (3208 Allegheny Drive) as El Tacorriendo. Located in an otherwise deserted strip mall it’s the only beacon of light in a very dark parking lot. The interior is basic but cheerful and the walls and menus are decorated with maps and photos of El Salvador. The restaurant seems to do a good take out business.

We had come across pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador, during our taco truck research as they are served at Mr Grill Tacos and were a feature of the short lived Pupuseria y Taqueria Usuluteca. When we heard about a pupusa restaurant we were intrigued to experience more Salvadoran food.

Pupusas are a thick corn griddle cake stuffed with a filling such as cheese, refried beans or chicharron (pork rinds). Our favorite of the three we tried was cheese with loroco (an edible flower). The pupusas were thinner and more delicate than the ones we have had at taco trucks and not at all greasy. They are served with a dish of curtido – a cabbage salad that is pickled and a little spicy, the salvadoran version of sauerkraut. You can see it in the top left corner of the photo below.

We tried a tamale and tamilito. Salvadoran tamales are wrapped in a banana leaf instead of the corn husks that are used in Mexican cuisine. This tamale contained chicken (with bones) in sauce and the corn meal was moist but dense. It was similar to the Colombian tamale that we tried at El Manantial. The tamalito was like a corn bread, very light and airy but much drier than the tamale. It was served with Salvadoran crema which is similar to sour cream but milder. Next were the platanos fritos, ripe fried plantains also served ‘con crema’. The plantains were beautifully caramelized and one of the high points of the meal.

We chose two main dishes from a long list which consisted mainly of variations of beef and chicken. There was at least one pork dish and a few of seafood dishes, including grilled fish and shrimp. There are also a few soups (sopas) and we tried the sopa de mariscos which had a rich fishy broth and pieces of fish, shrimp and shellfish. There were a lot of bones in the soup so eating it required attention but the broth was very flavorful.

Our other main was carne guisada, a rich beef stew served with potatoes, rice and refried beans. The beef was very tender and I thought the sauce was really tasty. We were also given a plate of Salvadoran tortillas which are thicker corn tortillas and I’m not sure which dish they were supposed to accompany but they were perfect for dipping into the beef stew.

The menu has very little description of the dishes so I think there is plenty more to discover. I already have a list of other dishes I would like to try including the pollo encebollado (chicken with onions) and the pupusa with chicharron. I am also tempted by their breakfast dishes. Salvadoran food seems to be less spicy than Mexican cuisine with mild, sweet flavors and is therefore a good option for those who don’t like too much heat. The Restaurante Salvadoreno is a no-frills destination with house made food, it’s a good place to head to when the weather is too cold for taco trucking.

The Restaurant is open 10am-8pm except Tuesday. It is cash only.
(614) 338-0552

Here are some references on Salvadoran Food: Whats4eats.comWikipedia.