Tag Archives: japanese

Freshstreet Yakitori

Cuisine: Japanese

482 S. Front St.
Columbus, OH 43215
614.531.0023

Open  Thursday through Saturday, 6:30pm – Midnight

Click here to map it!

There exists, in the Brewery District, a bar with no signage. The owners seem to do little in the way of self-promotion, and the lights are dimmed to the point that you might not even think they’re open. They occupy the old Gibby’s building on Front St., and call themselves ‘Double Happiness’.

Once inside, you’ll not mistake them for Gibby’s, or for that matter, any other Brewery District watering hole past or present. Huge red lamps hang from the ceiling, and a strong East Asian vibe permeates. DJs spin on some nights, live music occurs on others. Asian beers and sake-based drinks are the bar’s specialties. The place aims for and hits ‘cool’ dead center.

The only reason we know of this place is because we know Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba, owners of Fresh Street. They have struck a deal with Double Happiness, and now serve kushiyaki (and more) out of the previously dormant kitchen within. They call this new endeavor ‘Freshstreet Yakitori’.

Yakitori, literally translated from Japanese, means charcoal-grilled chicken on skewers. In the US, it’s often (mis)used to refer to anything Japanese-inspired that is charcoal-grilled on skewers, which is a range of offering that should technically fall under the umbrella term of ‘kushiyaki‘.

I mention this only to underscore one point – Freshstreet is serving far more than chicken. In addition to chicken thighs, skin, wings, and meatballs, they’re also serving pork belly, pork cheek, beef short ribs, bacon-wrapped mushrooms, beef heart & kidney, and on and on. As of our last stop in, they had perhaps 13 unique skewer options, with more to come.

I fear I may have objectivity problems – I’m thoroughly enamored with Kenny & Misako, and I’m a sucker for charcoal-grilled meats. When I walked in, it went something like this:

So it made for a good reality check when I happened to talk to a local restauranteur who is well versed in Japanese street foods, and had just been to Double Happiness. They said that Freshstreet’s kushiyaki was about as good as any they’d had anywhere.

Freshstreet also offers ramen and rice balls, and both are seriously good. The ramen’s chicken broth sets the standard in town, and the subtle spicing and crusty grilled exterior of the rice balls make for an edifying experience.

Expect the menu to change somewhat due to availability of ingredients, time of year, and the whims of the kitchen. This has long been a big part of the charm of Fresh Street, and our general advice would be to roll with it – you might not necessarily get the thing you’ve been craving from last time, but you’ll probably discover something new that you’ll end up craving next time.

Please note that Freshstreet provides vegetarian and vegan options. Skewers generally run between $2.50 and $4.00 each, and cups of ramen run $4.00 apiece.

Fresh Street

Cuisine: Japanese

1030 N. High St. (in the parking lot just south of Bodega)
Open: weekdays, 11:30am – 5:30pm (closed Tues), weekends, 12:00pm – 6:00pm
Facebook Page

Click here to map it!

Imagine you opened a Japanese crepe cart last summer. People came, ate, enjoyed your endlessly creative dishes, respected your commitment to quality ingredients, and raved to others. In no time you had amassed a cult following, and were regularly flattered by glowing mentions in both the social media sphere and traditional media. By the end of summer, you’ve got a spot on an NPR show about street food under your belt. You pulled big crowds almost everywhere you went, and kept ’em coming even through the cold of November. Eventually, though, the permafreeze became just too much, and you closed up for the season.

Next spring, my street food rock star, as the city defrosts… what do you do?

If you’re Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba, owners and operators of the much lauded Foodie Cart, the answer is: octopus balls!

A bit of back story – in seeking out a sheltered location, they connected with Mikey of Mikey’s Late Night Slice. His pizza ‘shack’ (an outbuilding in a parking lot in the Short North with an adjacent dining room) operates in the evening, and lies dormant during the day. A perfect spot for Kenny & Misako to do their thing during Mikey’s off-hours. Win-win, right?

Except that, for a variety of different reasons, the crepe apparatus wouldn’t fit into the location. Having had their eye on a much smaller takoyaki griddle, the plan came together. Foodie Cart became Fresh Street, and crepes shifted over to takoyaki – a spherical pancake-meets-dumpling style Japanese snack food, traditionally made with a chunk of octopus flesh in the middle.

That word – tradition – was not exactly a central tenet of Foodie Cart’s repertoire, and same goes for this endeavor though perhaps to a lesser extent. While you can get straightforwardly traditional takoyaki here (and if my limited experience is any indication, they’re as good as anything on the streets of Japan…), part of the fun is (and always has been) seeing what these guys come up with next and enjoying how they cajole disparate influences into harmonious flavor pairings.

On our first visit, during their soft opening, they had 3 takoyaki options on the menu – octopus (true takoyaki), Japanese pork sausage, and okonomiyaki. Each allowed for a variety of different sauce & topping options – some gratis, others with a small upcharge.

I loved all 3 types. Each had a nice crispy exterior that tastes of toasted sesame oil and yields to a bread-like layer that transitions to a delicious gooey center. The octopus, unsurprisingly, has chunks of naturally chewy octopus in the middle, and the pork sausage version had pieces of pork sausage that taste surprisingly similar to a breakfast link (and none the worse for it). The okonomiyaki has shredded cabbage in it, which makes for a creative take on the traditional Japanese okonomiyaki pancake. In spite of being the vegetarian option it struck me as every bit the equal of the others. All orders are finished off with a takoyaki sauce, your choice of kewpie mayo or hot mustard, and bonito flakes.

Eight balls come with an order, is surprisingly filling, and is very reasonably priced at $5 per octet. The skill involved in making these is considerable, open for all to see, and makes for entertaining food theater.

The grand opening is today (4/14/11), check ’em out!