rank city | ramen edition: Rishi

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The third stop in rank city: ramen edition was Rishi for some lunchtime ramen. Turns out Rishi was pretty dead during a weekday lunch hour. Maybe downtown folks don’t realize it’s open or they just don’t like ramen. Rishi has been open for a few years now and offers ramen, sushi, and…burgers? I recommend just sticking with the ramen.

What we ordered: Edamame hummus, pork ramen, chicken ramen.

Appetizer: The appetizer options are pretty limited at lunch. We went with the edamame hummus, which cost $7.95. It wasn’t a bad snack, but was pretty bland and underwhelming for being $8. Score:  2.5 IMG_0233Broth: Rishi’s pork ramen comes with their “house broth,” and it is one of my favorite things that I’ve eaten in Columbus. It is so rich and has a depth of flavor that leaves you very satisfied and full. It has the right level of fattiness without being one-note. Luckily for you, the chicken ramen also comes with the “house broth.”  Score: 4.5IMG_0235

Protein: I am a big fan of Rishi’s serving of shredded pork in their ramen. I know a slice of pork belly is more traditional, but the shredded pork is simply easier to eat. Not to mention it has a great flavor and texture. The egg rivaled Meshikou’s in its perfection; wonderfully gelatinous. I know that is a ridiculous way to describe an egg, but you guys don’t understand how much I love a perfectly cooked egg (and hate an overcooked one). Sadly, the chicken was not as delicious as the pork and grew a bit chewy the longer it sat in the broth. Score: 4IMG_0241Noodles: Rishi’s noodles are good but I would prefer them slightly more al dente. They tend toward sogginess by the end of the meal if you are a slow eater like me.  Score: 3.5IMG_0238Environment/Service: Our server was very attentive and didn’t seem to mind that we were in a bit of rush. Rishi markets itself as hip and elegant, and for the most part, they accomplish that. The decor is clean without feeling sparse. Someone (I suspect sneakily) played Jay Z’s “Holy Grail” (feat Justin Timberlake), so I can’t fully agree with the categorization of Rishi as an elegant restaurant. I love you, Jay, but we all know Magna Carta…Holy Grail was trash. Score: 4

Affordability: Lunch prices are a little lower than dinner, and the ramen came in at $10.95 (pork) and $9.95 (chicken). With the hummus, the total came to $31.01, which is a little steep for lunch. But that broth is so damn good, it’s hard to be too upset. And to be honest, I’m not even sure the lunch portion is smaller. Score: 3.5

Overall thoughts: I’ve been to Rishi multiple times and I’ve tried the sushi and some apps and observed others eating the burgers, but truly, the ramen is where it’s at. They definitely force the vibe there and would benefit from relaxing a bit, but their pork ramen is a delicious success. Sadly, we did not receive the wooden Gandalf-sized spoons that I’ve come to expect (maybe they are reserved for dinner?), but I am a big fan of the stone bowls, which keep the ramen piping hot. I always feel full and satisfied after eating a bowl of Rishi ramen, whether at lunch or dinner. Skip the $8 appetizer to have a very affordable meal, especially for lunch.

Total score: 22, plus 1.5 bonus points for portion size. 23.5.

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rank city: ramen edition | Tensuke 3/20/16

candyThe second stop in rank city: ramen edition was Tensuke Market for some Palm Sunday ramen. Tensuke might be one of my favorite places in Columbus. It’s an authentic Japanese market full of inexpensive produce, sushi-grade fish, 20 lb bags of rice, and racks and racks of weird candy. It also has a dining area where you can get sushi, soups, and other fast Japanese foods.

What we ordered: Steamed pork dumplings, karaage, tonkatsu ramen with pork tenderloin, miso ramen with spicy kimchi pork

Appetizer: The appetizers are not the main appeal at Tensuke, but I have no restraint when it comes to dumplings. The gyoza had a nice filling of pork and spices, but were a bit underwhelming. Same goes for the karaage. They weren’t as light and crispy as Meshikou’s, but still offered a nice start to the meal. For both appetizers, we mixed up our own dipping sauces. This is a pretty key part of dining at Tensuke; you get/need to mix up your own concoction of soy sauce, chili oil, sriracha, and whatever else is available to add to your meal. Score: 3IMG_0384

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Broth: Tensuke has a pretty big variety of choices for broth and protein, but I felt I had to go with the tonkatsu broth for authenticity’s sake. Sadly, it was a pretty plain backbone for my ramen, and needed to be dressed up with the aforementioned Japanese condiments. But, the miso/kimchi combination needed no dressing up. I was surprised by the layers of flavor present in the miso broth, and the kimchi kicked up the spice level perfectly. Score: We scored the tonkatsu a 3 and the spicy kimchi a 4, for an average of 3.5

Protein: Because Tensuke is designed to be a fast dining experience, I don’t think they’re as concerned with sending out perfectly executed 6 minute eggs. However, nothing is sadder than an overcooked egg, and I’m tearing up just thinking about that solid yolk. While the pork tenderloin was not as memorable, the spicy pork in our miso ramen was very flavorful and a nice addition to the bowl. Score: 3IMG_0383

Noodles: Quantity over quality may be the case for Tensuke’s noodles. They are undoubtedly better than your average Top Ramen noodles, but didn’t quite reach that chewy noodle nirvana. There did, however, seem to be a never ending supply coming from my bowl. Score: 3.5

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My proudest dining moment.

Environment/Service: I’ve never been to Japan, but I would guess Tensuke feels the most authentic of all the Columbus Japanese restaurants. You order and pick up your food at the counter, but the service is fast and friendly. It’s typically a bustling place, with shoppers and families with little kids all waiting for their turn at a table. But there is no edging out other diners with side eye or loud harrumphing. We went on a busy Sunday afternoon and were happy to wander the aisles of the grocery side while we waited for a table. Score: 4.5

Affordability: Two appetizers and two bowls of ramen came to $24.56. Almost felt like stealing. Score: 4.5

Overall thoughts: I love Tensuke, so it was hard to give middling scores in many of the categories. It’s designed to be a fast, casual dining experience but not in the Chipotle way. Their food and products are very good, but finesse is not the name of their game. While it won’t satisfy any fine dining desires, Tensuke is a particularly great lunch spot with excellent prices and generous portions.

Total score: 22, plus 1 bonus point for being featured on Morning Edition and another for how fun it is to say “Tensuke.” 24.

rank city: ramen edition | Meshikou 3/18/16

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The first stop in rank city: ramen edition was Meshikou. Meshikou opened in 2014 and like most good Asian restaurants, it’s located in a strip mall, sandwiched between a popcorn store and a poker club. Also there is a hockey store, because those are a thing.

What we ordered: Meshikou Karaage, Barbecue Chashu Bun, Shoyu Paitan Ramen with pork tenderloin

Appetizer: The Barbecue Chashu Bun (pork belly steam buns) and Meshikou Karaage (Japanese fried chicken) were a great start to our meal. I’ve had some misses with pork belly in the past, so am always a bit hesitant with the first bite. The pork belly had a very tasty barbecue glaze and was cooked nicely. The fatty parts weren’t gristly or chewy, which is always my fear with pork belly. The buns were slightly overdressed with lettuce; we would have been happy with just a few cucumber slices to add coolness and crunch.

I was a big fan of the karaage. Asian fried chicken, whether Japanese or Korean, is proving to be one of my favorite styles. The breading was light and crispy while the meat was still very moist and juicy. It also came with a tasty tangy sauce, and in a cute miniature fryer basket. I haven’t eaten KFC since my whole family got food poisoning when I was 10, but in the words of one diner/boyfriend, “This is like popcorn chicken for royalty.” Score: 4IMG_0214

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Broth: Sadly, Meshikou no longer makes pork broth. Based on Yelp comments, they don’t think they can get enough quality pork to make their broth, which is hard to believe IMO, but whatevs. Instead, their ramen is served with a chicken broth. You can choose a milky or clear broth, but who wants clear broth with ramen?  I was surprised by how good the chicken broth was, but it just didn’t reach the depth that tonkatsu (pork) broth gets. Score: 3.5ramen bowl

Protein: We went with pork tenderloin in the ramen because we were already having pork belly in the steam buns. The tenderloin was cooked nicely and soaked up a lot of flavor from the broth. The egg was cooked pretty perfectly for ramen. Firm white with a viscous yolk. Egg yolk is the best condiment/sauce you could put on anything, and this one did not disappoint. Score: 4

Noodles: We had heard that Meshikou uses the same ramen noodles as David Chang, so we had high expectations. The noodle rumors are unconfirmed, but these were delicious, in any case. Perfectly chewy and dense without being too al dente. Score: 4.5

Environment/Service: I was expecting Meshikou to be more crowded on Friday night, but we were seated immediately. There were only big tables open, so we sat at the bar. I don’t always enjoy eating at the bar, but in this case it was comfortable. All of our plates and bowls (for splitting the ramen) were warmed, which is a major point-scorer for me. There’s nothing worse than having hot food served on a cold plate. Our server was great–nice and attentive but not chatty. We also heard two Whitney songs while there, so points for that. Score: 4

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Affordability: The two appetizers and one bowl of ramen clocked in at $27. Not a bad price for two people to eat dinner, but we did only have one bowl of ramen. Score: 3.5

Overall thoughts: This was my first trip to Meshikou. After reading the Yelp reviews and learning they no longer had pork broth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised by the good flavor of the chicken broth, but it didn’t hit the ramen expectations I had in mind. I never got the sated feeling that deep, fatty, super flavorful pork broth offers. Which also meant I didn’t feel that full, despite eating half of everything I described. The ramen also cooled down rather quickly; I think it was served in a plastic bowl. I will definitely go back to Meshikou and try some more things, but will probably get my own bowl of ramen. They do not serve alcohol, but the cucumber water is a nice touch.

Total score: 23.5, plus 1 bonus point for the Japanese candy we got in lieu of fortune cookies. 24.5.

Stay tuned for the next ramen stop!

rank city: ramen edition

For the inaugural set of Rank City posts (in which I rank whatever I choose), I’ve decided to start with ramen. Columbus has a surprising amount of ramen restaurants; a new one even opened while I was working on these posts. If you never got on the David Chang train and to you, ramen costs .99 and tastes like MSG, you are depriving your tastes buds of an experience. While Columbus’ ramen may not rival Momofuku or the real deal in Japan, it’s worth checking out the varieties.

On to the fine print. I will rank the restaurants and their ramen on a 5 point scale for each of these categories:

  • Appetizer
  • Broth
  • Noodles
  • Protein
  • Environment/Service
  • Affordability

For a total high score of 30, plus any bonus points I want to throw in.

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Enjoy!

contentment: the ultimate writer’s block

You know how people tend to gain weight once they’re in a happy relationship? Or how Ryan Adams made bad music after he got sober?

Well, being content made me a neglectful writer.

I’ve wondered about this before. Do artists need to be depressed/angry/sad/hurt/high to make good art? I don’t think of my blog as being in the same category as your favorite album, favorite Impressionist painting, favorite novel. But, like so many artists, I do find that being in a particular mindset motivates me to write.

I want to approach my blog like work, so that I will be more disciplined and consistent, but I also want to give myself freedom. Because I do write for a living. It’s vastly different than what I write here, but it’s still writing. And writing is hard.

Recently, I was talking with a friend, who is a vastly better writer than I am, about writing and how I didn’t want to approach my blog like it’s a LiveJournal from 9th grade. But he argued for the diary approach to blogging and reminded me not to undervalue my experiences. He told me there will always be at least one person who relates to your story.

Then I listened to “Spill Your Guts”, an episode from The Allusionist, which is a podcast that I’m convinced was specifically designed for me to nerd out over grammar history lessons. The episode featured the guys from Mortified, and was about writing diary entries. They talked about the historical impact of diaries, as well as the funny patterns they’ve discovered: teenagers using LOL in their diaries, people assigning gender to their diaries, or addressing them with only Russian names. But also the importance of a diary as personal memoir.

So, why am I rambling about diaries and art and how writing is hard (boo hoo)? I’m getting there.

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If we aren’t real-life friends, or just haven’t spoken in the past year, you are probably wondering what led to the contented non-writing phase. And the main thing is I’m in this awesome, healthy relationship. That’s definitely not the only thing (because you don’t have to be in a relationship to be happy). I’m also excelling at my good (but boring) job, get to see my family more, have awesome friends, love living alone, and have a cat who stopped shitting on all my stuff (mostly).

But that relationship thing. When people ask how it’s going, I tell them, “I never knew what it was like to be in a relationship that didn’t feel like work most of the time. That was easy and loving and fun and meaningful.” This man is kind and lovable and he plays the fucking banjo. He doesn’t critique me or judge me. And when, early in our relationship, he asked if I wanted to come over and just read together, I thought, “THIS IS ALL I’VE EVER WANTED.”

He also encourages me to write.

So, I’m going to give myself the freedom to write some LiveJournaly posts, but will also commit to being more disciplined. In an effort to be more consistent, here are a few new “columns” I’m going to try:

  • Rank City, in which I rank whatever the fuck I want, such as stray cats
  • Beer/brewery reviews
  • Food/restaurant reviews (because I cannot keep reading the awful shit on Columbus Underground)
  • Book Reports, in which I write you a book report

And I will return to the music and feminist topics that weigh on my chest, making their presence known, much like Boo does after a long weekend away.

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music mondays: what’s coming in 2014

I started writing a post about Columbus band Old Hundred, but decided to stop midway and wait until they release their new album. That decision inspired this post about albums coming in 2014!

Locals:

Old Hundred is releasing a new record that I am eagerly anticipating. A music monday post will be dedicated to them once the album is available for listening.

Maria Levitov is a Columbus singer-songwriter whose music I was just introduced to. She has an album release show this Thursday, for $5, or free if you preordered the album. Check out this video for her single “Brother”:

Allyse Huey, who I’ve written about before, is releasing her first EP this June. (Now you have to release it in June, Allyse, LOL.)

Nationals:

There’s so much hip hop coming out this year: Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, and of course, the HIGHLY ANTICIPATED NEW ALBUM FROM OUTKAST.

Frank Ocean is picking the mic back up to deliver a follow-up to 2012’s Channel Orange. If I were Frank Ocean, I think it’d be really easy and tempting to leave Channel Orange as my one studio album and let my solo career be remembered for that. Glad he wants to keep pursuing his solo career.

Grimes is releasing her fourth album this year. I know that Grimes is not for everyone, but I’m a fan. I’m excited to see what kind of stuff she’s doing now. I recently learned that Grimes is a Dolly Parton fan, which surprised me, but makes me like her even more. In case you forgot what Grimes is about:

Robyn. Fun fact about Robyn. For my 5th grade music class talent show, I sang along to Robyn’s “Show Me Love”. Which means that I was too chicken to just sing by myself (because I can’t actually sing) but Robyn will always hold a special place in my heart. Looking forward to some more solid pop music from her.

Solange is putting out her third album some time this year. She moved to New Orleans in 2013 for her music (as she said), so I’m hoping there will be some good jazz and blues elements in her new stuff. Her video for “Losing You” remains one of my favorites.

Nickel Creek. Rumors have been circulating that Nickel Creek reunited to make another album, due out this spring. Nickel Creek was the first bluegrass/folk band that I fell in love with, so I hope the rumors are true.

Looks like 2014 might just be able to follow up the great year in music that was 2013.

Update:

I forgot to add Lost in the Trees. LITT’s third full album comes out next month, and I’m pretty interested by the changes they’ve made. This album doesn’t have the heavy strings presence that has been a major element in LITT’s sound, not to mention one of my favorite parts of this band. Like others, they are moving to a more electronic sound with this new album. For a sneak peak, check out this episode of All Songs Considered from a couple weeks ago, which features one of the new tracks.

music mondays: allyse huey, aka adubz

This week’s Music Monday is a shameless plug for my friend, songwriter and musician Allyse Huey (formerly known as ADubz).

Allyse and I were roommates for a long time until she decided she’d rather live with a boy. Lame. But I’ve been able to see her growth as a musician firsthand and am so proud of her. The rest of our roommates and I have teased Allyse for having so many hobbies over the years, but music has always been the one that sticks. She used to scoff at my musical tastes, but I think after making her a mixtape of mostly folk music a few years back, she saw the light. And now’s she’s a songwriter in her own right.

Allyse has become very involved with the Columbus Songwriters Association and has been playing open mics and other local shows for the last year or two (I need a fact checker). In college, we used to beg Allyse to play some songs for us, but she typically did not oblige us. I love to see her get up on a stage now, fearlessly performing songs that she has written. I’m so impressed by her gift to write both lyrics and music.

Take a look at her website, facebook page, and soundcloud to hear some songs. My favorites are “Stay” and “Vultures Will Circle”, but also check out “The Vineyard” and “Pool of Dreams” for Allyse’s killer whistling skills, of which I’ve always been jealous. She’s recorded everything herself so far, but will be recording with a sound engineer this week, yay!

Allyse will be playing this Wednesday night at The Tree Bar.

highlights: 2012 in favorites

Well, since everyone is putting out their “Best of 2012” lists, I decided to conjure up my own. But, since Best of really means favorite, there’s no reason to hide the truth under a Best of title. Which also means I don’t have to pick just one.

Coffee: We had more than one new coffee shop open in the Short North this year. I anticipated the opening of both One Line and Mission Coffee Co, and was pleased with my first taste of each. I worry about the sustainability of One Line in a city that’s still learning about coffee. They specialize in pour overs, don’t have much seating, and could be intimidating to new coffee drinkers. But it’s worth the wait for an excellent pour over. Over at Mission, they make great espresso drinks as well as French pressed coffee. I have to say I’m partial to Mission. The environment is more welcoming, the employees (who I think are also the co-owners?) are friendly, and they’re homies with the guys over at Snapstagram. Mission’s struggle will be losing traffic without a High Street-facing storefront. Now, if you voted in the Columbus Underground Best of 2012 survey, listen carefully: STAUF’S DOES NOT HAVE GOOD COFFEE. Don’t miss out on the really great coffee Columbus has to offer. (Shout out to Hans and Joelle manning the Hemisphere Coffee Cart. I haven’t been to the cart yet, but frequently buy whole beans from HCR.)

Eats: Three memorable restaurants that I tried for the first time this year were Till, Explorers Club, and Refectory. Technically, Till was new this year for everyone. It’s the revamped, re-done, but same owners replacement for Dragonfly. As a meat-eater, I’m glad it’s not strictly vegan anymore. They offer yummy, adventurous food, tasty cocktails, and a trustworthy selection of wine and beer. At Explorers Club, I had the most heavenly version of Eggs Benedict. Spicy food + runny eggs = all things good. The downfall of my trip to Explorers Club was that I couldn’t get a Bloody Mary during brunch. And finally, the Refectory, Columbus’ long-running classic French restaurant. The meal I ate there tops the charts in all categories. Melt-in-your-mouth scallops, the biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen (excuse me, prawn), and perfect dessert. But, Parker and I were the youngest people there by twenty years.

Booze: In the fourth quarter of 2012, I toured Middle West Spirits (right here in Columbus) and Southern Tier Brewery (Smalltown, NY). Okay, the tour of MWS was a little long. Brady was all, “I don’t have anything to do tonight so I’m gonna keep you here awhile” and he meant it. But, the more I heard about this small business, the more I wanted to support their products. Well worth your money and time. Southern Tier was my third brewery tour and I really enjoyed it. Maybe because they gave us so much beer to sample. And broke out some Pumpking from the secret stash for us. One main critique is that they don’t have a true restaurant at the brewery, and food is limited as it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.

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Travel: If you read my 2012: here’s hoping post, you’ll be happy to know I made it to all my National Parks! Acadia in July and Zion and Bryce in November. Acadia was amazing; I’d never hiked a mountain that’s right on the ocean, so it was a completely new experience. I didn’t get to see enough of Zion and definitely want to return to do the Narrows. Bryce was incredible. Parker and I stood looking out across the canyon saying, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could go in it?” Turns out, we could! Hiking down into the canyon will be one of my most memorable experiences. I also made my way around Ohio: I received a proper tour of Athens courtesy of Parker, spent some time in downtown Cleveland (which reminded me why I love Columbus), and hiked Hocking Hills more than once.

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Music: I’m working on a separate post just for the lady singers, so I’ll highlight some man singers here. My favorites are on opposite poles from each other: folk bands to electronic/impossible to categorize. Lord Huron. They’re like a beachy Fleet Foxes. Speaking of which, Poor Moon. Saw them open for Lost in the Trees this spring and looooved them. Actually preferred their sound live to listening to their EPs. Alt-J. It’s a struggle to figure what the hell he’s saying, but turns out his lyrics actually make some sense. Really unusual sound. The Lumineers. I listened to them on World Cafe: Next back in January and eagerly awaited their spring release. Though I wasn’t super impressed by their live performance this summer (they aren’t made for a big stage), still loved the album. Kishi Bashi. That guy is nuts. I thought about going to see him open for another group at the Wex, and regret not doing it. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. There are songs on their album that I always skip, but then I listen to Same Love on repeat. (Check out Mary Lambert‘s poetry.)

Concerts: Feist at the Wex. Well done, Leslie, for making everyone get out of their seats. Punch Brothers at the Beechland Ballroom. Always worth a 5 hour round trip drive. Lost in the Trees with openers Poor Moon at the Wex. For me, LITT live transcends music and becomes performance art. Tanlines, Maps and Atlases, Atlas Genius, The Lumineers, Ben Kweller, and Metric at Summerfest at The LC. Emily Haines is amazing live.Feist

Reads: Separate post to follow on the books I read in 2012. It was a weird year for reading.

Babies: Yo, there were a lot of babies born in 2012. And while most of them are cute, Harper J wins the All-Around for Baby of 2012. I could be biased.IMG_3079

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Congrats to all my friends who got engaged, married, or had a kid this year. Congrats to all of us who didn’t. I still got my KitchenAid mixer.

Thanks for a good year Columbus. You owed me one.