Category Archives: ethnic eats

No Reservations Columbus

michael kimura kihachi columbus

Columbus made a brief appearance in Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations ‘Heartland’ episode this evening. The fly-by visit was great exposure for two of our local talents but caused much consternation in the twitter-facebook-CU sphere, mostly due to Michael Ruhlman’s comments about Applebee’s and his apparent surprise that good food was to be found in Columbus. (he should know better, he’s from Cleveland)

mike kimura sushi columbus

The two local talents featured were Chef Michael Kimura of Kihachi, and Gary Robinette “the MacGyver of Pizza” from Clever Crow.

kihachi columbus no reservations

Kihachi, far from being in the middle of nowhere, Mr Bourdain, is found very close to 270 and Sawmill, tucked in a strip mall at Federated Boulevard. Anyone who reads alt.eats, knows that I am a fan of obscure restaurants in strip malls and Kihachi is one of many that are worth seeking out. Kihachi is one of the most authentic Japanese restaurants in Columbus. It is also one of the best restaurants in Columbus and so it was no surprise that Bourdain gushed about the food. Coincidentally I went to Kihachi for dinner later on the very same evening that Bourdain was there. You can read about that dinner, and several previous Kihachi dinners on this blog. The photos in this post are from my most recent meal there, and one that I have thus far neglected to blog about. On that visit we ordered from the menu, choosing mostly from the exceptional daily specials.

clever crow, gary robinette, circus bar, pizza

Clever Crow, working out of the kitchen at the Circus Bar, had only been open a few weeks before Bourdain’s crew came to town, but it has received accolades from day one. It’s pizza but not as you know it, so put your pizza preconceptions aside before you try it. Its distinctions include the crispy yet thick cornmeal and 200-year-old sourdough base, the housemade sausage and pepperoni, the unusual and creative flavor combinations and the sheer weight of toppings. It amazes me how the crust manages to stay crisp and firm even when loaded down with cheese and sausage. Gary places an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients and offers weekly specials such as the Greek: Mozzarella, Roasted Red Pepper, Kalamata Olive Tapenade, Feta and Fresh Rosemary.

My current favorite (pictured above) is the corn pizza with lots of cheese, sweetcorn, purple (yes, purple) potatoes and caramelized onions. You can order full or half pizzas or just a slice, or you can get two different halves in the same pan, which is what we usually do. Half a pizza is really filling. The only downside of this great-artisinal-made-to-order-thick-crusted pizza, is that it isn’t quick to make. Luckily it’s located in a bar, so take some friends and plan on drinking a couple of beers while you wait. This is definitely not fast food.

clever crow, pizza, circus bar, Columbus, no reservations

Contact:

Kihachi, Federated Boulevard,  2667 Federated Boulevard, (614) 764-9040 (closed Sunday)

Clever Crow, Circus Bar, 1227 N. High Street 614.421.2998 Tue-Sat 4-10pm

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Announcing Columbus Food Adventures

I haven’t been posting as much on Hungrywoolf in recent weeks as I would like, but I think I have a good reason. I’ve been working towards the launch of a new venture, my new business – Columbus Food Adventures. Starting July 27th I will be offering small group food tours of Columbus. We are starting with three itineraries: a Short North walking tour, a van based taco truck tour and a van based alt.eats tour. More itineraries will be added during the course of the year and we will also be offering private group tours.

Food tours are the culmination of so many of my interests and passions – travel, food and pride in the city that I now call my home. I first had the idea to offer food tours in Columbus over a year ago, when I was trying figure out what to do next. At first I wasn’t sure that the idea was viable but over the course of the last year the signs have kept pointing in this direction. We had a staggering turn out to our taco truck tour in April; research revealed a relative lack of tour options in Columbus; and national recognition of the Columbus food scene kept growing. In addition more and more people, from friends to journalists, started asking us to take them on tours. It was clear the demand was there.

Everyone I mentioned my idea to was so enthusiastic about the possibility of food tours in Columbus that the idea gradually took on a life of its own. Before I knew it I was signing company papers and shopping for a van. It’s already been a huge learning curve, but it’s very exciting.

I have had a wonderful response and support from business owners, tourism and restaurant organizations and I am thankful for our fantastic partner businesses. I can’t wait to show them off.

I hope that you will help us to celebrate the launch of Columbus Food Adventures at the North Market ‘s Dispatch Kitchen on July 22nd 6-9pm. Please leave a comment if you plan to attend.

The website is www.columbusfoodadventures.com and you can follow us on facebook or twitter.

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Sunday Afternoon in the Park

Carlos, the owner of the two Las Delicias trucks told us that he relocates his newer truck to Rhodes Park on Sundays. When he mentioned that there were other food vendors there, we were curious and we’ve been waiting for a sunny Sunday afternoon to check it out.

The vendors are here to to feed hungry soccer players and spectators and games run all day from 9am until it gets dark. Apart from two ice cream trucks circling around, most of the vendors were Mexican including two taco trucks – Las Delicias II and El Mexicano. The rest of the vendors had set up tents and tables and there were coolers galore. It was like a mini festival and it happens every weekend.

Common offerings included: tacos, tostadas, chicharrones preparados (fried pork rinds topped with pickled pork rinds), agua frescas (pineapple, watermelon or horchata), nieves (ice creams) and fresh fruit cocktails. There were rumors of tamales, but as we never found them I’m guessing they sell out early.

The fresh fruit cocktails contained varying proportions of mango, cucumber (pepino), jicama and watermelon (sandia) and could be topped with your choice of lime, salt, hot sauce or chamoy.

Chamoy is a sauce made of pickled fruits and is simultaneously sweet and salty and spicy. It definitely gives the fruit an added dimension.

Whether your preference is fruit cocktail, pork rinds or ceviche, watching some soccer and cooling off with some nieves or agua fresca, is a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon in the park.

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Luc’s Asian Market

We just wrote a post on about Luc”s on alteats but I am so enamored with this new find that I wanted to post something on hungrywoolf as well. It seems that a lot of the best ethnic food in Columbus is hidden in the back of grocery stores (Arirang, Mecca, Salam) and this is no exception. The market is fascinating, but what keeps taking us back to Luc’s is their prepared food.  What the dining area may lack in polish the food makes up for in flavor.

As you walk in, the first thing you see is a refrigerated food case. The contents vary daily and may contain pickles, salads, sauces, rolls, dumplings and desserts. While there are some interesting options in there, unless its Monday the real destination as in the back left corner of the store.

Head past the aisles of rice and noodles, the other refrigerator with exotic fruits and the boxes of fruit piled on the floor.

Stay focused, there is much more to distract you on your way: the store is a treasure trove full of fresh noodles, live crayfish, preserved duck eggs, fresh quail eggs, pork bung and woks bigger than a regular stove.

Once you work your way through the produce and frozen section, your destination is now in sight. The produce area is my favorite even though (or perhaps because) I need help identifying half of the items displayed.

Finally you have reached the counter and can peruse the menu and place your order. Luc’s has a lot of interesting dishes on offer but the owner said that she sells mostly pad thai and fried rice and she’s threatening to discontinue some of the less popular dishes. I’m hoping that we can stimulate some demand so that she will change her mind. Everything we have eaten has been really good, but the pork chop I had on my last visit was hard to beat. Marinated with lemongrass, beguilingly sweet and oh so succulent, it was easy to love. You can also have pork on top of vermicelli or in a bahn mi sandwich.

Luc’s is at 3275 Sullivant Ave. The kitchen is open Tuesday-Sunday 9-7pm. They usually have pre-made bahn mi sandwiches on offer at the cash register as well as the dishes in the refrigerated case.

More photos to whet your appetite on flickr.

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Cinco de Mayo

We had been asked by Johnny di Loretto to suggest a good venue for a Cinco de Mayo spot on Fox 28’s Good Day Columbus. We did a show with him in the fall about taco trucks and had a lot of fun. We suggested the colorful bakery Otro Rollo on Sullivant Avenue, one of the places we discovered during our taco truck research that we have featured on alt.eats. Otro Rollo also has a taco truck, and they supply many Mexican grocery stores and taco trucks with bread and pastries.

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that originated in Puebla and celebrates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French. It is not a national holiday in Mexico but in the States it has become a celebration of Mexican heritage, and like St Patrick’s Day, a day for beer promotions and drinking.

When we first discussed the idea with Otro Rollo they seemed fairly nonplussed, but by the end of filming they had fully embraced their 15 minutes of fame, were taking photos of the proceedings, and had baked Johnny a special Fox 28 tres leches cake. Tres leches cake is sponge cake that is filled with fruit and cream and soaked in a mixture of three different milks (whole milk , evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk). Decorations are generally exuberant and it is popular for weddings and other celebrations.

I have been to Otro Rollo many times but I had never been behind the scenes. It was fun to spend time in the kitchen watching them making telera the bread that is used for tortas (Mexican sandwiches). Balls of dough are rolled into ovals and given a second rising. They are then rolled out and divided into three sections. We were impressed with the bakers’ speed and consistency. Otro Rollo bake an average of 500 telera a day as well as a huge array of other breads and cakes.

Also for Cinco de Mayo we had a Taco Trucks Columbus meet up at Taco Nazo. At the Rick Bayless book signing I asked Quicho if there were any Mexican foods associated with Cinco de Mayo. He offered to make some specials, including Pozole. Taco Nazo knows how to put on a good spread and when we arrived they were decked out in red, white and green. For $5 you could have pozole, Mexican flag-hued jello, cake and a beverage.

The cakes (also tres leches) were suitably festive and as usual, the work of one of Quicho’s employees, Bettina. It seemed a shame to cut them.

The pozole was fantastic. More of a stew than a soup, with plump tender hominy kernals and generous quantities of chicken and pork, it was served with chopped onion, cabbage and radishes to add as garnishes, as well as lime wedges. I tried both the red and the green and loved both. The red, made with chicken, had a mellow heat and slightly smoky. The green, made with pork and chicken, had more acidity but was very well balanced.

The evening ended with $3 house margaritas at Garcia’s on North High Street. I had not been there before but it’s a Columbus institution, having been open for over 30 years. The menu is a mix of Peruvian, Mexican and some Tex-Mex. The whole place had a surreal feel, only in part due to the 80’s karaoke.

It was a fun, but very long Cinco de Mayo. Thanks to Ray for organizing the bike ride up to Taco Nazo.

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Korean Barbecue

I have to admit a weakness for food that is cooked or finished at the table. Whether it be a dipping bread into a steaming pot of melted cheese, wedge shaped raclette creations or just assemble-it-yourself crispy duck pancakes, I love the conviviality of sharing food with friends and the freedom to play with your food. Do-it-yourself dinners allow you to experiment with flavors and to customize each bite. I also love the less interactive and more spectacular teppanyaki tables. As a teenager my birthday wish was usually a visit to Benihana, not just because the food was delicious, but because I always enjoyed the show.

When I saw the barbecue tables on my first visit to Kaya, I was intrigued by this new variation on table top cooking. Although I have eaten bulgogi and kalbi, I had not experienced Korean barbecue. At Kaya the gas grills are inset into the center of the table, and covered with a flat metal cover when not in use. The grill surface is removable and ours was changed out between different dishes. The barbecue section of the menu lists about 10 different barbecue options and we tried a seafood mixed grill, kalbi (beef short ribs) and pork belly.

The cooking was mostly done by the servers, slightly awkwardly as they had to reach over the long table. Occasionally we were left to our own devices. Above you can see one of the servers cutting the short ribs off the bone.

The server gave us a fairly cursory explanation of how to eat the barbecue and I was glad that I had done some reading beforehand. The table was filled with an array of banchan (side dishes) as well as the various accoutrements for the barbecue.

We were provided with a large pile of lettuce leaves and for the seafood and kalbi we were advised to take a lettuce leaf, smear on some fermented soy bean paste, dip our meat/ fish into the salt and sesame oil mixture and place it onto the lettuce leaf. Add some of the salad, roll and eat.  Kimchi was an optional extra.

The salad was one of my favorite parts of the meal. A variation on pajori (scallion salad) it contained slivers of scallion, thinly sliced lettuce and a dressing which included liberal quantities of sesame oil, sesame seeds and Korean chili powder. I would happily have eaten a plate of it and will definitely try making it at home. As a result my overstuffed rolls were somewhat ungainly to eat.

The pork belly was a slightly different routine. Instead of lettuce leaves the wrapper was thinly sliced pickled daikon. The sweet pickle was a good counterpoint to the fatty pork belly.

While I obviously appreciated the DIY approach at the table, there seemed to be a downside: with all the dishes, the proteins ended up on the wrong side of chewy. Was this due to our inexperience, our server’s lack of attentiveness, insufficient marinade, the heat of the grill, or a combination of all of the above? I’m glad to have had the experience of Korean barbecue, but next time I might just let the chef do the grilling.

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Mole Negro

I love a good mole, but they are hard to find because they are so labor intensive to make. Mole Negro takes many hours to made from scratch and the list of ingredients is daunting. There are four types of chilis as well as various nuts and seeds. There is also an art to toasting and grinding each of the ingredients for exactly the right amount of time. Rick Bayless’s version of the recipe is four pages long. One day I might attempt this labor of love, but in the meantime there is a respectable short cut: Panaderia Oaxaquena / Mi Pueblo Market make their own mole pastes (rojo and negro) which you can, much more easily turn into a sauce. We were tipped off about this gem by G.A. Benton when we took him taco touring and you can read about our other finds at Panaderia Oaxaquena on alteatscolumbus.

Here’s how to turn your bag of mole paste into a delicious dinner. Cook 750g of tomatoes and then puree them. Strain off any water. You could probably get away with using a canned passata (tomato puree). Fry the tomato puree with some oil and then once it has reduced a little, add the mole and stir until it dissolves into the tomato mixture. Add half a liter of chicken or pork stock.

I decided to make chicken mole and after some consultation with Dan from Kitchen Little Oh at the North Market, I chose boneless thighs and bought about 2 lbs of them from North Market Poultry and Game.  The more authentic Mexican way to cook the meat is to poach it in water with an onion first, but in the interests of time (and because I was a little wary of the poaching), I browned the thighs and then cooked them in the sauce. After a couple of hours the chicken was falling apart into tender threads and the sauce had thickened. As suggested on the label, I added some extra grated chocolate to make it a little less fiery.

We served our mole negro with rice and beans, guacamole, salad and warmed corn tortillas, which you can find at any of the Mexican grocery stores in town. Koki’s tortillas are the local choice for as they are made on Sullivant Avenue and they are used by a lot of the taco trucks. If you haven’t been to any of the Mexican grocery stores, they are worth exploring. They are great places to buy limes, avocados, chilis, cilantro and such and you can find a lot of interesting ingredients that are hard to acquire elsewhere. I like La Plaza Tapatia on Georgesville Road (near Broad), which also has a restaurant, but the Michoacana stores are also good and some of the smaller stores are interesting too.

As with many such dishes, the mole negro was even better the second day and it freezes well so it is definitely worth making a large batch.

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