It’s pretty hard to find a place in the midwestern United States that does Korean barbecue — the distinctive style of cooking raw meats on a hot element is something that is easy to embrace…once you’re already familiar with the process. So around here, it doesn’t have much of a following. But if you want an introduction on the idea, a good place to go would be Kaya Grill & Sushi, a Columbus spot that specializes in Korean and Japanese cooking. But the best thing to try in the restaurant has to be this unique way of eating, both for its rarity in this area and for the potential to really walk away satisfied you’ve had a great meal.
While it’s only been open a little over a year, Song’s Sushi along Airway Road east of Dayton has already drawn considerable praise as an under-appreciated new gem in the city. With a captive audience in nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the dive serves up Korean and Japanese food — and fast, to keep up with those tight lunch break routines. The rapid-fire service might lead you to think this is a no-frills place, but in reality, it’s great food served from a tight ship. This kind of efficiency is sure to impress by itself, but the food backs it up.
A sit-down sushi restaurant that was founded in West Chester, Dancing Roll recently added a second location in Hyde Park on Cincinnati’s East Side, with a menu that has broadened with the interest in Japanese and Korean food that has increased in the Midwest recently. This spot is best known and liked for its half-price sushi nights and its whole plates of great Korean specialties, which are otherwise not easy to find in a lot of other places in Cincinnati. This spot is one to remember.
A newer Asian Fusion restaurant opened off Wilmington Pike in the Dayton suburb of Kettering, Sky Asian Cuisine focuses heavily on two things — sushi and noodles, both primarily Japanese specialties. But the restaurant’s menu spans a number of other East Asian cuisines from Chinese meat dishes to pad Thai. It’s designed to be a more formal sit-down kind of restaurant with its low-lit interior giving wide view to the sushi bar and good collection of drinks and cocktails bringing people out into the night. I like this place for its refined feel as a romantic go-to.
While there are a few Asian-themed buffets around Dayton, what Osaka Japanese Steakhouse offers the region is a very unique experience. Opened in what has for several years been a series of family dining restaurants, this one is a higher-priced buffet of Far Eastern cuisines you won’t find in many other places around town, and certainly not all under one roof. From Peking duck to octopus, frog legs and, yes, a sushi conveyor belt, this spot is a place to go when you’re feeling like a very adventurous experience.
With two locations in Louisville, Dragon King’s Daughter is a contemporary restaurant concept that combines two very unlike cuisines — Japanese sushi and Spanish Tapas — into one dining experience. I’m not quite sure what exactly inspired the combination, but it seems to work well enough to keep a steady following of people coming in the doors here. The concept works, though, in part because it brings out a lot of foods that people love and allows them to combine those in fun and interesting ways.
With a colorful concept and an Asian Fusion menu that spans the Far East, Suzie Wong’s is a cool upscale addition to the Madison area of Walnut Hills in east Cincinnati. It’s most busy in the lunch hour, offering Korean bibimbap, Vietnamese pho, Chinese lo mein and everything in between. Keeping those prices at a reasonable place, Suzie Wong’s is a pretty easy place to like, with everything it offers having sort of a comfortable goodness to it.
Chinatown: in Washington DC, it’s where you will find a taste of East Asia that is unmatched. Noodle houses, sushi restaurants and karaoke bars pack this popular district in downtown DC, and you can find all kinds of ranges of quality of food to be tried here. Resisting the rapid gentrification of surrounding blocks, spots like Wok n Roll offer something a bit old fashioned: cheap, greasy noodles. But it never really goes beyond the kind of place you go to grab something to fill you up. In that way, it’s a pretty safe place to try.
As the Cincinnati suburbs have expended north, nicer restaurant concepts have emerged alongside them. The Voice of America Park is one of several major shopping developments to emerge in the growing Interstate 75 corridor between Cincinnati and Columbus. But even as that allows for a measure of creativity, the concepts here tend to be upscale, old-school and focusing on making quality food and experiences. Soho Japanese Bistro is one of the prime examples, and a great one at that.
With downtown Louisville changing at the hands of a ton of new buildings, more housing and new businesses, it’s a welcome site indeed that some great new restaurant concepts are populating around the city’s core, too. Hiko-A-Mon, a casual concept for Asian fusion-style foods as well as sushi, is a relatively new face in the core, with a particular brand of sushi that is easy to love and really not that expensive. The restaurant scene in this part of Kentucky is some of the state’s most adventurous, and I think the concept comes to Louisville’s core at a good time.