1500 Polaris Pkwy #220
Columbus, OH 43240
Cameron Mitchell has built a restaurant empire across much of Columbus, and a lot of them build on the classic Americana-style restaurants with an upscale twist: Steak houses, seafood and the like. The odd man out – both in type and location – would be Molly Woo’s. Unlike the flashier concepts in downtown and the Short North, this Chinese-themed restaurant is a bit further from the center of the city as part of Polaris Fashion Place. But Columbus is loaded with authentic Chinese chefs, and in that light, this spot feels like a flashier imitation of the off-mall Chinese takeout trope, but not in a good way.
Some of the restaurateur’s great experiments have pulled off well. This isn’t one of them.
The menu has a mix of some of those classic Chinese food dishes with sort of a quality twist, akin to casual chains like P.F. Chang’s. Here’s a rundown of some of the things on the menu.
Cashew Chicken: Chicken stir-fried in with glazed cashews, snow peas, scallions and water chestnuts. Here, the modern retelling of a classic Chinese dish. Here, the strategy is to play the sweet note first – the brown sauce is heavy on the sugar.
Thai Seafood Medley: This stir-fry has a combination of shrimp, scallops, calamari and veggies with jalapeños and the like. This one is my least favorite dish; without a lot of seasoning it lacks any dimension. The intent is clearly not to overwhelm the seafood. The execution is lacking.
Mongolian Garlic Steak: Quickly seared beef with scallions and onions. Here again you see the go-to strategy of lots of sugar. Where are the chili peppers, the ginger? Chili oil? What the food needs is actual Chinese ingredients. It lacks them.
- Lo Mein: Egg noodles oily and chewy fried with snow peas, mushrooms, bean sprouts, onions and carrots. Not a bad take on this dish, but the spots down the street pull off the same recipe for half the price.
- Mai Tai: What I do like are the cocktails, and this one is a mix of Ron Zacapa Rum mixed in with grenadine, orange and pineapple juice.
- Bahama Mama: The best cocktail on the menu. Bacardi Superior Rum and Crème de Banana with the same mix of grenadine and juices. A good mix.
The service is great – as has been my experience in other Cameron Mitchell restaurants, the staff are well-trained and very attentive to seeing you. The cocktails are great, and the ambiance isn’t that bad, either.
But the restaurant is an example of the limit of the nicer restaurant model – good Chinese food requires committing to the ingredients. Without the Sichuan peppercorns, without the hand-pulled noodles, and the other great ingredients that bring Chinese food its flavor, replacing it all with sugar just doesn’t work. So that leaves this restaurant as kind of an odd child out in the lineup of restaurants in this chain.
Columbus benefits from a great restaurant scene especially for Chinese, Thai and Korean food. There are a lot of local finds, and I would say to trust them.