rank city | ramen edition: Rishi

IMG_0231

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.

Save

Advertisements

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

IMG_0226

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

IMG_0385

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

IMG_0219

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

IMG_0213

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

IMG_0220

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!