Tag Archives: Asian

Fortune Chinese Restaurant


Cuisine: Chinese (Sichuan)

2869 Olentangy River Road, next to Buckeye Bar & Grill
(614) 263-1991
Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-11pm

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After hearing mixed reviews about Fortune’s new ownership from friends and readers, we ventured to this unassuming storefront on a gray weekday and had an utterly transformative lunch. We had heard that the new owners were concentrating on Sichuan cuisine and we sought dishes with the classic mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorn. For the uninitiated, the heat of Sichuan peppercorns doesn’t translate exactly to the Scoville scale; instead, the spice numbs the lips and tongue creating a unique sensation. In Chinese, this numbing spiciness is referred to as ma la. We’ve had some great Sichuan dishes around town, most notably some items in the Imperial Garden Weekend Buffet, but Fortune has the most successful and faithfully reproduced versions of typical Sichuan dishes.

We started off with two bowls of dan dan noodles (one bowl is plenty to share between two people). This quintessential Sichuan dish has been butchered up and down by Americanized noodle shops and we were a little disappointed to see that it came with egg noodles and not the typical thin flour noodle. By the second bite, we had forgotten the noodle and were completely wowed by the flavors. Drenched in chili oil and liberally sprinkled with crisp peppercorn flakes, the ground pork and peanut toppings contributed to the overall flavor and we were substantially impressed. In no time at all, our sinuses were clearing up and our mouths were totally numb.

Another dish we couldn’t refrain from ordering was the lamb with chili pepper and cumin. Since the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu, is one of the end points of the Silk Road, Middle Eastern flavors such as cumin is very common in Sichuan cuisine. For this specialty dish, we were expecting lamb that was a little bit more dehydrated but with tender pieces of lamb and aggressive spicing, we weren’t complaining at all. The copious amounts of sliced garlic and green onions rounded out the flavors and Angela declared it near perfect.

I was tickled pink when I noticed Sliced Beef in Fresh Hot Pepper. It’s one of my favorite Sichuan dishes and pairs perfectly with nothing more than a bowl of steamed rice. It’s really a one bowl meal: layers of napa cabbage, tender beef slices, and sometimes mung bean noodles all the way at the bottom. And despite its thick layer of chili oil, it’s not really that spicy, but very pronounced in ma la flavor. This dish also comes in a fish version and we can’t wait to try it!

Ma po Tofu is another classic Sichuan dish that is often poorly executed elsewhere. This wholly vegetarian dish was the best version we’ve tried in town. Liberally sprinkled with cumin and peppercorns, the silken tofu was further complemented by garlicky thick cut leeks.

This photo sums up our selection of classic Sichuan dishes, heavy on red chili oil and utterly delicious.

To round out our meal, we also shared a simple dish of pea shoots stir fried with garlic. Even in the best of kitchens, delicate leafy greens are so hard to execute consistently. At Fortune, the leaves were just barely cooked through, the stems still had a nice crispness, and it was not too oily. A true indicator of great skill.

On our way out, we noticed that the new management had posted signs of their house specialties. We did well by ordering three of the eight, and we can’t wait to come back to try more! Left column, translated: Beef Tripe with Hot Pepper Sauce, Ma La Dried Beef (Beef Jerk with Red Chili Sauce), Diced Rabbit in Chili Oil, Ma La Beef Tendon (Beef Tendon with Red Chili Sauce). Right column: Ma Po Tofu, Fish Filet in Hot Pepper, Cold Beef with Spicy Sauce, Dan Dan Noodles.

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Lai Lai Asian Kitchen

Cuisine: Chinese

6823 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43213-1516
Phone: (614) 861-3515
Monday – Friday: 11am – 9pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11:30am -9pm

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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.

The Crispy Garlic Tofu had a delicately crunchy exterior surrounding soft tofu. The dipping sauce consisted of a mix of yellow hot mustard and duck sauce.

One of the appetizers on the specials menu, the salt and pepper calamari tossed with green onions is a staple in Chinese restaurants.

The Fiery Wontons had good flavor from the mild peppercorn sauce but the ratio of wrapper to filling was left us wanting more.

Dan Dan Noodles is really a misnomer. This dish should really be renamed noodles in peanut sauce.

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.

Fiery Szechuan Fish Filet with just the tiniest hint of numbing Sichuan peppercorns.

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.

Arirang

Cuisine: Korean
1526 Bethel Road
614.459.8070
Open until 9pm

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Arirang was first recommended to me by a Hungrywoolf reader (Thank you Molly). It has become my favorite place for Korean food, and I thought that it was still a wonderful secret until G.A. Benton from Columbus Alive wrote his humorous post about it this week.

From the outside you would never guess that this little grocery store has a restaurant in the  back. You order at the store’s front counter and then take your ticket to the open kitchen at the back of the store. Find a seat and wait to be signaled to when your food is ready. There is no table service so you go up to the counter and collect it yourself. The menu has recently been updated and is in English and Korean with a clear indication of which dishes are spicy. There are three price brackets ranging from $4.95 up to $8.95.

With its extremely bright fluorescent lighting and slightly sterile feel, Arirang is not somewhere to go for the atmosphere but what it lacks in ambience it makes up for with the food. It is also extremely clean, good value and you can do some shopping while you are there.

Your meal will come with the traditional banchan (a selection of small dishes, including the requisite kimchi.) and there is an urn of complimentary barley tea as well as a water cooler.

My favorite dishes tend to be the spicy ones but there are plenty of options for people who do not like spicy food. Some of the beef soups are very lightly seasoned. The dolsot bibimbap (mixed rice in a stone pot) is also not spicy and comes topped with lots of vegetables, sprouts and kimchi. The egg was fried with a soft yolk rather than the raw egg that is often served. As well as large steaming bowls of soup and noodles there are also stir fried dishes and I really enjoyed the stir fried pork.

The picture at the top of the post is kim-bap, a Korean roll (a vegetarian sushi style roll) and we have enjoyed the crispy pancakes both mung bean and seafood.

The soups are extremely hot in temperature and usually arrive at a rolling boil. If you are really hungry, order a pancake or a roll to eat while you wait, to prevent searing your mouth. Also a good idea not to go right before they close – it’s hard to eat steaming food in a hurry!

Indochine

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Cuisine: Vietnamese / Laotian

561 S Hamilton Rd
614.231.7357

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Indochine in east Columbus, is light and bright with a spacious feel and it is very family friendly, as evidenced by the number of children in their Sunday best. The owners are extremely hospitable, chatting and joking with regulars and very willing to expand on menu items – I have never heard anyone describe a dish with such enthusiasm and pride.

The food is a mix of Vietnamese and Laotian with a variety of salads, noodle soups and pho, fried rice and sandwiches. I was curious to try the Laotian style dishes, which share similarities to both Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, as they were new to me.

We started with a Vietnamese classic, a banh mi sandwich (ba mon) with 3 types of meat including headcheese. Not quite as delicately assembled as the Mi Li variety but with the same characteristic mix of flavors and every bit as fresh and craveable.

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Next were two salads, papaya salad accompanied with pork rinds, which even at ‘2 stars’ was too spicy for most of us to enjoy, and marinated cabbage with shrimp and chicken that was so vibrant and refreshing with its lime, cilantro and chili dressing that it was an instant favorite.

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Next were two beef salads, both Laotian style – Goi thit bo and crying tiger with ginger sauce. The crying tiger didn’t live up to its name: it was the papaya salad that was voted most likely to make someone cry. The Goi thit bo was a successful marriage of flavors, very similar to the Thai style dish yum nuea. The crying tiger was lightly seasoned beef strips to be dipped in ginger sauce.

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One of our favorite dishes was a cold rice noodle salad bun cha gio thit heo nuong (number 22 I believe) with pieces of spring rolls. Presented in a four seasons style, the light dressing comes on the side and you pour it over the ingredients and mix them together.

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We sampled two different types of noodle soups (banh canh), one with chicken and blood pudding  and one special (pictured) that was not on the menu. These steaming hot bowls would be a perfect winter meal.

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