28 December 2010

Moshi Sushi Bar

Moshi is an upscale sushi joint in Bexley that offers contemporary takes on rolls as well as Pan-Asian fare from Korea, Thailand and Japan. It adds a nice touch to the Bexley dining scene.

This restaurant is a collaboration between Bexley resident Moshe "Moshi" Mizrachi and the father-and-son team of Song and David Kim. It gives Bexley a modern Asian spot in a similar style to Lemongrass or Nida's in the Short North.

The staff at Moshi Sushi Bar addressed vegetarian concerns appropriately. The menu doesn't have piles of vegetarian options, but there is enough variety to give diners different options.

The miso soup is vegetarian, prepared without bonito. There are about five different vegetable sushi rolls, a couple of salads, a tofu steak and a few meatless noodle dishes.

The miso soup has a deep green color that hides an unctuous, savory character. Small pieces of tofu pick up the flavor of the broth and the fresh scallions.

The fried tofu is served with a sweet hoisin sauce and an herbal-infused soy dip. Half of the tofu cubes are fried crispy without breading, and the other half are tempura battered with a crunchy panko coating. The hoisin-based sauce adds a great barbeque flavor to the dish.

The sushi rolls are artfully prepared. Vegetarian options include some of the usual suspects (avocado rolls and cucumber rolls) as well as some rolls with more complex groupings of ingredients. The veggie roll had cucumber, asparagus, carrots and kombucha squash. The O-H-I-O roll consists of avocado, cream cheese, fried sweet potato and asparagus fried in a walnut panko tempura with a sweet miso sauce.

The O-H-I-O roll was a great mix of flavors. The cream cheese and avocado add a rich, savory element to the sweet taste of the miso and potato. The crispy breading adds a great texture to the sushi roll.

The color of the veggie roll is striking. There is a rainbow of flavor accompanying its many shades. The smaller avocado roll was well-constructed if slightly uninspiring.

The decor at Moshi is modern and understated. Service was friendly and capable. There is a full bar with sake and cocktails.

While Moshi is excellent with a number of vegetarian options, be forewarned that it rates on the expensive end for sushi in the Columbus area.

Moshi Sushi Bar

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The Veg Edge

The Veg Edge is a one-hour special that airs regularly on the Cooking Channel, Scripps' new cousin to the Food Network. Since I spend about 20 hours or more per week watching foodie-centric television, it was time to pass on the fruits of these labors.

This program highlights trends in vegetarian dining nationwide. Some of the places and people featured on The Veg Edge include the veggie dining scene in Austin (including Casa de Luz, Daily Juice, Mr. Natural Vegetarian and vegan food carts like Iggi's Vegan Texatarean and the Vegan Yacht), a seasonal prix fixe restaurant in Seattle called Sutra, adorable vegan pastry chef (and Cupcake Wars champion) Chloe Coscarelli, New York haute cuisine outposts like Dirt Candy and Dovetail (which features a meatless Monday menu although it isn't a vegetarian restaurant), the vegan web show Heavy Metal Vegan, and the vegetarian scene in Portland, which runs the gamut from food carts like Native Bowl, Magic Beans, Sushi Tree, Ruby Dragon and Homegrown Smoker, higher end places like Blossoming Lotus and Portobello Vegan Trattorria, and the fantastic Portland vegan mini mall, with animal product-free shopping for every part of your life from the kitchen to your tattoo collection.

This show does an excellent job highlighting how national dining trends such as food carts are catering to growing segments of the population (i.e. vegetarians). It also shows how the increasing sophistication and internationalization of the American palate has created a wider variety of dining options for vegetarians as well as those looking to minimize their intake of animal products

21 December 2010

Cafe Bella

Cafe Bella is an intimate, locally focused eatery on the border of Clintonville and North Campus. It features sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes that cater to vegetarian and vegan diners.

The menu changes regularly. As a result, it is transmitted orally rather than in a written format.

Prices are $5 for sandwiches and $9 for pasta dishes. My pasta came with a salad and a brownie. With a drink, my bill was $10.

The salad was made with spinach, arugula, red peppers, red onions, bean sprouts, white cheese and sesame oil. It was fresh, clean and delicately constructed with hints of citrus, pepper and earthiness.

The eggplant parmesan pasta was thinly sliced eggplant delicately battered and served on thick spaghetti noodles in a house-made, chunky marinara with basil and garlic notes. The plating was great, and it added visual appeal to a dish that was already a satisfying explosion of flavor.

The brownie bite was a cool conclusion to the meal. The salad and pasta were filling, so I wasn't certain that I needed anything else. However, after some consideration, two bites of warm, dark chocolate cake provided a perfect finale to a fantastic lunch.

While the main focus of Cafe Bella is Italian dishes and breakfast items like frittata and French toast, international fare also is a staple. While this place is very accommodating for dietary restrictions, calling a day ahead allows diners to custom craft their meal for the next day (a cool perk for regulars and picky eaters).

Cafe Bella

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18 December 2010

Rice Bowl

Rice Bowl is a long-tenured Chinese restaurant in Columbus' Scioto Southland. It produces relatively characterless Chinese fare at extremely reasonable prices.

Like most Chinese restaurants, Rice Bowl offers a small selection of meatless offerings on its menu. The most troubling part of the vegetarian choices on Rice Bowl's menu is that there is a lack of vegetarian protein on the lunch menu. There is a stir fried bean curd on the dinner menu, but the lunch options consist mainly of vegetables without tofu.

The vegetable spring roll is made in the traditional Chinese deep fried style. It is stuffed with an abundance of cabbage and shredded carrots, and served with sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard.

The Buddhist Delight is thin Chinese pasta tossed with mushrooms, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, baby corn and pea pods. For the most part, the dish is fairly bland with very few redeeming characteristics.

The Szechwan vegetables have a deeper, spicier flavor. Green peppers, mushrooms, onions, water chestnuts, peapods and carrots are coated in a thick, brown Szechwan base. Though it is a superior dish when compared to the Buddhist Delight, the flavor profile is still somewhat one dimensional.

There is limited dine-in space at Rice Bowl. Take-out orders are prepared rapidly. I was easily able to transport it home and serve the food at a hot temperature.

Overall, Rice Bowl offers fairly pedestrian Chinese food. Since the South Side of Columbus is somewhat lacking in meatless dining options, Rice Bowl will do in a pinch.

Rice Bowl

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10 December 2010

L&L Indian Restaurant

L&L Indian Restaurant is a new Indian establishment on the Far West side of the city. Despite its humble appearance, L&L is a hidden gem for vegetarians and Indian food fanatics on Columbus' left side.

The owner of L&L has spent a long time working in other Indian restaurants in Columbus, such as Indian Oven and Curry & Kebab. The business is mostly focused on take-out as there is only seating for about 10.

Vegetarian options at L&L include palak paneer, aloo gobi, aloo matar, chana masala, veggie biryani and palak aloo. While there is naan, the starters are a little limited (no pakoras or samosas). The average entree price is about $8.

The palak paneer was delightful. Spinach is sauteed with onions, garlic and mild spices. It is augmented with creamy cubes of paneer cheese, a common Indian vegetarian protein source. With the side of basmati rice, the dish is delicious and satisfying.

The naan is also good. It is flecked with hints of black pepper that add an interesting note to a bread that's just as good by itself as it is scooping up whatever leftover chutneys or curries are floating around your table.

Overall, while L&L might not be Columbus' best Indian restaurant, it's still fairly priced and tasty. It definitely offers a safe bet for vegetarians on the West side outside of I-270.

L&L Indian Restaurant

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04 December 2010

Lai Lai

Lai Lai is a slightly upscale Chinese restaurant located in a nondescript strip mall in Blacklick. After selling previous suburban restaurants with the same name (now closed) and staying out of the restaurant business for a decade, owner James Miao opened a new Lai Lai on the far East side.

Lai Lai is an authentic Chinese eatery with classic dishes. Although the decor and plating suggest a top shelf experience, prices are reasonable with nothing more than $15 and most priced around $10.

The menu at Lai Lai is not exceptionally vegetarian friendly, although like most Chinese restaurants, there are about five or six vegetarian entrees and three vegetarian appetizers available. The only dish that puts up warning flags for vegetarians is the ma po tofu, a traditional Szechuan tofu dish that is prepared with pork.

Vegetarian starters are a fried vegetable spring roll, a breaded tofu dish with peanut dipping sauce and sesame noodles. The spring roll was crisp and artfully presented. The accompanying condiments were a nice touch, especially the hot mustard, which provided an explosive accent to the dish.

Vegetarian entrees are usually made with tofu. The Chinese eggplant is one of the non-tofu main courses, while choices like kung pao tofu and Szechuan black bean tofu occupy the other side of the spectrum at Lai Lai.

The black bean tofu is prepared with blocks of tofu, bok choy, pea pods and sauteed mushrooms. The black bean sauce is somewhat mild at Lai Lai considering the dish is traditionally very spicy. While I would have preferred it to be spicier, the earthy flavor added by the tender mushroom caps still adds a nice touch to the dish.

Service at Lai Lai was prompt, friendly and capable. The staff on hand was unable to answer my questions about vegan dishes, so vegan diners might want to call ahead before visiting.

Lai Lai

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