After having the best ramen of my life during a trip to New York, I began a search to find something comparable here in Columbus. I asked for help, hoping that Bethia of Hungrywoolf would be up to the task. Lucky for me, she was. She listed a few Columbus restaurants to help me start my journey, one of which was Sushi Bistro Masa in Dublin. The power of suggestion led Baseball Boy and I to make our way to the suburbs (through a mild snowstorm) that very evening.
I rarely venture onto I-270. Partially because I’m terrified of driving, partially because I almost always get lost and partially because having spent a portion of my life in Hilliard, the shopping-center-big-box-chain-restaurant-sprawl freaks me out. I do recognize that several of the best ethnic eateries are along the northwest corridor of the city, and that unless I overcome my fears, I’m going to miss out.
Sushi Bistro Masa, it turns out, was a perfect gateway to the suburbs; with beautiful design, an enticing menu and excellent service, I didn’t feel like I was in a corporate empire. I felt like I was in a locally owned and operated restaurant, run with extreme attention to detail, that could easily be in a trendy part of town.
Knowing that my main course would be ramen way before I entered the restaurant, left me feeling a bit stifled by my own quest. So many choices, and I was predestined to dine on ramen. (Yes, I have issues.) The obvious answer to this quandary was to order starters, the first one being vegetable tempura. The beautiful presentation of tempura-dipped and fried vegetables was divided evenly between the two of us. Those sweet potatoes were heavenly.
Next came calamari with spicy mayo. Our server informed us that this dish is extremely popular among frequent diners. I liked it, though I would have been happy if this would have been a quarter of its size; chewing through an entire bowl full of tough squid turned out to be a task that took me the entire meal. I found it to be on the spicy side, but for those who like it full-force, a shaker full of cayenne was on the table to “help.” (I’ve since learned that sometimes the dish is offered with lobster. Three words can convey my sentiments on that idea: I need that.)
Baseball Boy’s sashimi plate came with a bowl of miso soup, which he adored. Cloudy and silky, the gentle texture of the soup was the thing that won him over.
I didn’t get a chance to try the sashimi, but it was a beautiful setup. He found his meal to be pure and simple, and was pleased at how the condiments (wasabi and pickled greens) transformed the flavor of each piece of fish. Next time, he said that he’d try something with a little more flavor.
And finally, the ramen. Our server patiently explained the difference between all the noodle choices (thick, thin, broths) to me and I selected the one with the most pork: chasy-umen. Was it good? Yes. Was it Ippudo-good? No. Did I expect it to be? No. But the hot broth, thinner than what I was hoping for, was perfect for the snowy evening. The pork was cut into strips and paired with fresh bean sprouts. I found myself missing the boiled egg and pork belly from my Ippudo experience, but I was too shy to ask for these additions. Next visit, however, I know that I can be more bold in my ordering, thanks in part to the server. Not only did she help me select my meal, but she also taught me how to eat it. Shovel-style, face-to-bowl, with loud slurps is the way to show the chef that you enjoy your ramen, she explained.
The polite way to eat ramen, it seems, is the way I eat when I hope no one is looking.
Sushi Bistro Masa
6395 Perimeter Drive