Sunday, January 31, 2010

Out-of-Order Review: Sushi Rock.

Okay, I know that the plan was to post my restaurant reviews by geographic location in Columbus, but last night, I had dinner at Sushi Rock, and thought it was appropriate to report my thoughts.

Sushi Rock is located on the Cap in Columbus. Housed in the space formerly occupied by Liu Pon Xi, I have heard as much as $1 million was spent on its renovation. The vibe is pretty cool; dark floors, fluorescent lights, the bar has a very non-Columbus feel, although the bar stools are pretty uncomfortable.

I went to Sushi Rock the first week it opened, and was pretty disappointed. I was with two of my former bosses, both who enjoy sushi very much, and thought: the rolls were very large; not rolled neatly; the calamari was cold; and the service was pretty poor. I've also read pretty dismal reviews, on sites such as Columbus Underground, detailing some similar experiences to mine.

My girlfriends and I had a dinner reservation for Saturday evening. I feel that a party of six is pretty standard for a Saturday night, so I was glad that reservations were accepted. In typical girl fashion, we were running slightly behind; there was slight worry that we may lose our table, but as I entered the restaurant, it wasn't very crowded. This isn't surprising given the poor reviews received and the rumored bad reputation.

We were seated immediately, in a corner booth overlooking the Columbus Convention Center. Our waiter was prompt taking our drink orders, but there was about a 7 minute wait for the drinks. The drink menu was pretty pricey; it was less expensive to order a glass of prosecco than a glass of white wine. Most wines averaged at $8-10 per glass, and the bottles were very expensive.

We ordered a calamari appetizer, and three of us ordered a seaweed salad. The calamari came in a round wooden dish, and this time, was warm and crisp. The sauce was sweet and spicy, but the calamari were not coated in the sweet glaze, as is the calamari across the street at Hyde Park. The seaweed salad was neatly presented in a square glass bowl; however, for a scoop of seaweed, I thought $7 was a little ridic.

We all decided to order different rolls: spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, philly, rainbow, plain ol salmon, an eel roll, and some pieces of sashimi. One person at the table ordered a Filet Mignon with lobster mashed potatoes. We ordered another round of drinks, this time, it took about 10 minutes to receive them (again, the restaurant is not very crowded).

The Filet Mignon arrived to the table before the sushi. Like substantially before. Like enough time for some of the ladies at the table to go outside for a cigarette as soon as the filet touched the table, come back, and the sushi just arriving upon sitting back down down.

I'm not a cow eater, and one reader pointed out this may be a problem in efficiently reviewing restaurants, so guest commentators would be welcome...I digress.

Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but a filet has to be placed to flame, right? And sushi is raw fish, wrapped in rice and a wrapper with spicy mayo or cream cheese stuffed inside/on top/all around, right? So, wouldn't it make sense that the majority of the food arrive at the same time, perhaps the sushi before or immediately after the steak, not approximately a 7 minute delay? Keep in mind, the restaurant is not full!

Anyway, the presentation of the sushi is pretty neat. The sushi comes on a marble slab that the floors are made of (hence the "rock" name I am guessing, like Cold Stone Creamery, etc).

The nori on all of the rolls was pretty tough to bite into. Normally, I am able to bite sushi into two pieces if the roll is big (I learned after an unsightly incident one Christmas break at Nagoya in Catawba Island, after choking and then being advised by a fellow patron to take "small bites, dear.") The rolls were pretty tasty; the shrimp tempura roll and the rainbow roll were the most difficult to eat. I know that the goal was to make them "big rolls;" however, do you really want the rolls to be so big that the patron takes a bite, and then have to quickly eat the rest of it and risk choking, or, have all of the delicious contents fall out because the patron has to use her fingers to assist her in ripping the nori on the bite because it's so difficult to bite into...

The sashimi pieces looked so-so. Although I didn't try them, they did not look as fresh as those served at Kooma or Japanese Oriental Restaurant.

The filet migon: The cow eater at the table ordered a filet migon, medium rare, with bleu cheese crumbles. After taking her first bite, a big "mmm!" was rendered; she has had steaks in various high-class steakhouses, so I suppose that it was satisfactory in satisfaction. When the smokers went to smoke again (cow eater is a smoker), the nonsmokers and I pounced on the ginormous pile of lobster mashed potatoes left on the plate (she finished her steak).

I love me some potatoes. Obviously, they have zero nutritional value, but there's something about the creamy deliciousness that only a potato can provide. As I scooped some potato goodness up with my chop sticks, I was kind of disappointed; they tasted like boxed potatoes! I mean, potatoes are cheap! You can go get a big bag at the Kroger for not a whole lot of dollars! I kind of tasted hints of lobster in my few bites, but did not get any actual chunks. If it were me getting the meat dish, I probably would have gone for the truffled mac-n-cheese.

Again, during the eating time, we ordered several more rounds of drinks, and the waiter became progressively slower. He picked up one or two more tables, but he seemed to disappear constantly. I didn't see him at the bar, or at the sushi bar, or walking around in the back (and those of you that have dined with me, you know I have a pretty good ability of finding people in crowded places). So, maybe he was in the kitchen whipping up some boxed taters.

At the end of the meal, the bill ended up being about $353. For 7 rolls, 1 order of sashimi,1 steak, 1 side of lobster faux potatoes, 3 apple martinis, 2 glasses of sauvignon blanc, 4 glasses of prosecco, 3 bud lights, and 4 vodka redbulls....I didn't think it was too bad.

CONCLUSION: I will probably give Sushi Rock another chance. After seeing the numerous complaints on other blogs and via word of mouth, I would have hoped that the service would be drastically improved. Our waiter was nice enough, but he was just really out of it, and not very attentive. I love calamari, and if the calamari would have been cold and soggy, I would have been rage filled.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My favorites.

I've lived in Columbus since 2005. I know that is not very long in the grand continuum of life, but I feel it is long enough to have had sampled many restaurants in the 614.

My plan for this blog is to highlight restaurants by location: German Village, Downtown, Short North, Victorian Village, Grandview, Campus, Clintonville, Worthington, Easton, Polaris, and beyond. Each month, I will focus on a specific area of the city, and will post my likes/dislikes/hopefully some pictures on specific restaurants during the weeks.

That being said, I have a collection of restaurants that I consider to be my favorite places in Columbus. I mean, what is a foodie without a favorite list of places?

My top 10 (not in any particular order, just any place that when someone asks, "Where would you like to go to dinner?" I would definitely say "yes!"):

1. Lindey's, German Village
2. The North Star Cafe, Short North
4. Udipi Cafe, Worthington/North Columbus
5. Lavash, Clintonville
6. Cap City Diner, Grandview/Victorian Village
7. The Happy Greek, Short North
8. Cafe Istanbul, Easton
9. Tai's Asian Bistro, Campus/Upper Arlington
10. The Tip Top, Downtown

Next list of German Village Restaurants, and reviews!

The Introduction.

Growing up in an Indian family, food is a big deal.

Some Indian families have a rice ceremony for a one year old baby; the baby is given its first taste of rice, the staple of the Indian diet. Surrounded by loved ones, the parents gently give the baby a morsel of rice, followed by plate holding a pen, pile of dirt, or money; whatever the baby picks up, will determine its future career (doctor, lawyer businessperson).

Every house party has its intricate layout. My mother is an amazing cook. My family hails from the state of Karnataka, in South Indian, and Karnatik cuisine is delightful. Carefully, my mother would plan her menus: four different types of rice, six different vegetables, home made yogurt, gulab jamoons soaking up sweet syrup. My father would also contribute to the menu, preparing perfectly round pooris, fried bread puffs, and the standard dish in Mysore: dosas. Paper thin, always crispy and hot, my father is a legend for his rice pancakes.

However, being raised in small town Ohio created very few opportunities to eat out. The local restaurants consisted of Chinese food, Ponderosa, Bob Evans, and a local eatery with the best sugar cream pie. When we'd travel to the big city (Dayton), we'd eat at the temple: simple, delicious, vegetarian food, Or, if my dad was lucky (he, unlike my mother, was a meat eater), we'd venture to Amar India for the lunch buffet. Rich Punjabi curries with perfectly cooked meat, puffy, crispy naan, and thick mango lassis. To this day, it is still my family's favorite North Indian restaurant, and caters every party we have.

I didn't really try different foods until I moved to Columbus. In college, my circle of friends had diverse backgrounds, and diverse palates. I tried hummus for the first time, and my first bulgoki.

I soon grew to love all types of food, and in Columbus, I have favorites restaurants, everywhere. Working in politics, people ask for recommendations on where to eat. I would always give a referral in such detail that many have told me, "Lakshmi, why don't you start a food blog?"

So, here goes.

I'm starting this blog, and will be working my way through Columbus talking about my favorite places to eat, and sampling new ones along the way. I know that there are a ton of food blogs already in existence, but I hope mine will be different with my spin on it.

And I promise, I will try to keep my running monologue to a minimum...try.