Tag Archives: goat

Bilan Cafe Restaurant

Cuisine: Somali
3949 Cleveland Avenue
614.337.2442

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“You open?”

A nod indicated that they were.  Couldn’t have guessed from either the exterior signage or the lack of lights on inside, though it was 12:30 and we’ve come to believe lunch is the ideal time to dine at Somali restaurants.

We seated ourselves in the basic but clean dining room and were served complimentary mango juice and bottled water. Inspecting the menu revealed a relatively modest assortment of the usual suspects… plus a few new to us.  We asked about some of the unfamiliar items.

“We don’t have that today.”

…which brings us to the default approach we’ve come to fall back on at Somali restaurants – just ask ‘whatcha cooking today?’. After a brief discussion with our server, we settled on goat with rice, KK, and their recommendation for a substitution on a chapatti-based menu item (we weren’t told the dish’s name).

The ‘dish with no name’ came out first – a nicely seasoned chicken dish with onions, green beans, sweetcorn and peas in a mild curry-like sauce. It came with chapatti strips (which we used to pinch morsels from the chicken dish), iceberg lettuce, and lemon wedges.  The chapatti was a bit on the tough side, but the chicken was roundly appreciated.

Next we tried the KK (chapatti strips cooked with chicken and vegetables).  This was more like Banadir’s (curry-esque) than Calanley’s (tomatoey), but less well received than either – just a bit too mild, and slightly on the gluey side.

The goat was good in varying degrees – from bite to bite,  it could be anywhere between ‘eh, not bad’, and ‘damn that’s a thing of beauty!’.    When it shined, it was a tender piece with plenty of the exceptional curry flavor.  The meat was bone-in, topped with sauteed onions and plated with a generous portion of a nice basmati rice.

As we went up to the register near the kitchen to pay, we looked back upon a much-changed dining room.  Lights were on, people were everywhere. It would appear as though their unofficial opening time was somewhere around 1:00pm.

Bilan’s service is friendly, if perhaps a bit slow.  As with most Somali restaurants, there appear to be few vegetarian-oriented dishes.

Note – chapati, jabati, chapatti… ?  Transliteration would appear to be an inexact art, especially when dealing with the less well established cuisines.  In this blog, all italicized words are copied straight from the menu of the restaurant being reviewed.

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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

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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.

African Paradise


Cuisine: Somali
2263 Morse Road
614.476.2163
Hours: 7:30am – 10:00pm

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A bit of advice – just go with the flow when at African Paradise.  From the odd, vaguely Bourbon Street-esque exterior to a menu that, willy nilly, mixes cuisine categories with food items with Friday specials with – hey, no prices on anything? – much about this Somali restaurant will confound the more logically inclined.

Do hang loose, though, because African Paradise has an awful lot to recommend it.

Stepping inside, we found a large, clean space with minimal decor and low lighting.  Our party of 5 was seated between a prayer room and a ‘ladies only’ room (a dining area sectioned off with accordion doors, presumably created to allow Muslim women to dine without the unwanted intrusion of the male gaze).

After trying to make sense of the menu, we decided to simply use it as a starting point for conversation.  The servers were more than happy to explain everything, and if they felt as though they had failed on any point they were quick to provide samples to clear up the confusion.   Such was the case with the mufo and the jabati – both were flat breads, what was the difference?  Their answer:

Turns out, mufo is a dense, tart and chewy cornmeal-based flatbread, while jabati is something like a wheat flour-based cousin to the Indian chapati. These were served with a delicious dipping sauce that Hungrywoolf described as tasting like a curried marinara*.

‘Did we like?’ asked the waiter.  Indeed we did.  With that, a proposition: ‘You can order single dishes for each person, or I can do a large family style dish for everyone with four different choices on it’.  After much discussion, we settled on the family style spread and added rice, more jabati, soup, salad,  mango juice, and Somali tea. All or some of which may or may not have come with the family style meal.  Bottled water was also included.

Soup and tea arrived first. The soup was a simple vegetable mix in a rich chicken broth, and was enjoyed by all.  The Somali tea was reminiscent of chai with strong cardamom notes, but achingly sweet.

Then the main dish:

That’s roasted goat, chicken, and two types of fish (salmon and, um, something else?) The goat was a revelation – while there was some variation between pieces, it was moist, tender, delicately flavored, and as good as any goat any of us had ever tasted.  The chicken was reminiscent of an off-the-bone Indian tandoori, though in my opinion more flavorful and more tender.  Both fishes were seasoned similarly to the chicken and were delicious though perhaps a bit on the dry side.  The rice was subtle with just a hint of cardamom and made for a perfect accompaniment to the proteins.

Quantities were generous – the photo with the oversized serving spoon fails to illustrate this point.  The five of us indulged to our hearts content and had plenty of leftovers.

Now for the check.

Wait… you’ve got to be kidding.  $33?  For everything…. for all 5 of us?! Yeah, we’ll be back… especially since AP has some intriguing breakfast menu items.

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*The marinara analogy is interesting because Somalia was briefly colonized by Italy and Italian culinary influence persists to this day.  Pasta items are not unusual in Somali restaurants and were in ample evidence on AP’s menu as well.