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614 Ramen Trail: Tensuke Express

Mike Thomas

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You rolled with us down the Donut Trail, elbowed your way through the Mac & Cheese Trail, and picked the bones clean on the Fried Chicken Trail. Now, 614NOW takes you on a new culinary excursion dedicated to the city’s best offerings of that trademark dish from the Land of the Rising Sun. Welcome to the 614NOW Ramen Trail!

More than just a college dorm room staple, ramen holds a special place within the rich culinary traditions of Japan. Originating from noodle soups brought to the island nation by Chinese immigrants, ramen has evolved into one of the country’s most prominent national dishes, second only to sushi.

With many unique regional styles in its home country, ramen has transcended borders to become a global phenomenon. Prepared slowly but devoured ravenously, this is one of the few dishes for which slurping is not considered impolite, but mandatory!

Arnold gets it.

For the first stop on our ramen adventure, it’s only right to begin with the OG of noodles in Columbus: Tensuke Express. Located in a mini-mall-style complex of Japan-centric shops on Kenny road, Tensuke is the first place in the Columbus that I can recall seeing ramen done with care.

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When I arrived around midday for a recent visit, Tensuke was bustling with a lunch crowd of the noodle faithful. At the counter, I placed my go-to order: Tonkatsu Ramen—noodles served in a delightfully cloudy slow-boiled pork bone broth— topped with thinly-sliced chashu pork.

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Living up to the “express” part of the restaurant’s name, my ramen came out in no time, and I dived right in.

The deep, subtly earthly flavors of the broth in this dish are complimented by a smoked hardboiled egg—a ramen staple. Like the egg, The toppings in Tensuke’s offerings stick to the traditional: tender pieces of bamboo, spinach, sliced mushroom, and chopped scallions, which ride atop the broth like little bombs of flavor. Sometimes, the old ways are best.

Chopsticks recommended, but not required

Great broth and toppings can only take a bowl of ramen so far. As essential as properly prepared rice is to quality sushi, so are those singular alkaline noodles to the foundation of good ramen. Without a doubt, the noodles at Tensuke Express are everything they should be. Springy and not at all soggy, these strands are the perfect vehicle to send the flavorful broth speeding into your mouth as fast as you can slurp.

With a hearty broth that reminds of the slow-cooked flavors of home cooking, paired with first-rate noodles, it’s clear why Tensuke Express remains a hit with diners year after year. The only problem with this ramen? Finding the willpower to return to work after polishing off a bowl instead of curling up for an afternoon nap.

The Verdict: 🍜🍜🍜🍜🍜 (5/5 Bowls)

Next week, 614’s Mitch Hooper expands his horizons beyond the instant stuff with North Market newcomers Satori Ramen Bar.

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Food & Drink

Too Good to Eat: Hubbard Grille’s Short Rib and Shrimp shareable

@findyourfork

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If looks could krill, you would be on the floor. Literally.

Hubbard Grille's Short Rib and Shrimp shareable dish will knock you right out of your seat because it will hit you hard and fast with flavor and more.

Photo by Angela Lee of @findyourfork

Imagine this: the most tender and delicious pulled beef short rib layered on a bed of the creamiest and cheesiest white cheddar grits with tomato jus. Top the bite-sized goodness off with a perfectly tender and seasoned prawn, add some color and texture with delicately placed microgreens and take that first bite.

With that first bite, you’ve just experienced one of the most delicious flavor profiles that the Columbus food scene has to offer. Second bite and your taste buds are just begging, pleading, and crying for more. Third bite and you are already shamelessly scraping off every last drop, speck, and flavor from the dish with your spoon.

You might actually even pick up the dish with your own two hands and unashamedly lick the plate clean. You might also start bargaining with your fellow table mates to negotiate the remaining pieces on the plate.

No judgement here. We have all done it at one point. You gotta do what you gotta do, am I right?

Hubbard Grille is located at 793 N. High St. in the Short North. To learn more + view the menu, visit hubbardgrille.com.

@findyourfork your average noodle connoisseur, taco devourer, and mimosa lover. When she's not busy snapping pictures of her latest yummy foodie adventures, you'll find her at your local coffee shop casually relaxing with a pastry in hand and a latte in the other.

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Beloved burger joint opening in Hilliard next week

614now Staff

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Swensons Drive-In is expanding their central Ohio footprint in just a few days. The Hilliard stand will open at 4810 Cemetery Rd. on Monday, September 23.

Hilliard will be the third stand in Columbus with a locations in Dublin and Polaris.

The Akron-based burger chain prepares their burgers, including the signature Galley Boy, using premium cuts of beef ground fresh daily and made to order. The buttered and toasted buns only add to the juiciness of the meat.

https://twitter.com/SwensonsDriveIn/status/1175043808268099585

Apart from the greasy goodness that is Swensons food, one of the other reasons to patronize the stand is its car-side service. From the comfort of your pajama pants, Swensons Curb Servers will be at your window, eager to take your order and sprint, literally sprint, it back to the kitchen for preparation. Just be sure to not drop a single Potato Teezer between your seat because we all know that is the land of no return.

Visit www.swensonsdriveins.com for more information.

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Food & Drink

Review: Matt & Tony’s dishes out classic comfort food in downtown

Regina Fox

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I've gotten to try a lot of interesting cuisine with this job, but it's rare that I get the opportunity to sample a mother's spaghetti recipe outside of my childhood home. This is the type of experience that Matt & Tony's Wood Fired Kitchen, which recently opened inside the former CBC Restaurant space, offers its guests.

At Matt & Tony's, you don't have to sneak off to the bathroom to Google what a menu item is so you don't look ignorant in front of your date, and that's what makes it so great.

The menu bodes familiar comforts like fried chicken, fish & chips, veal parmesan, and burgers. There's no proprietary flare or fancy sauce smears around your plate—it's all just damn good food.

I sampled Madeline's Spaghetti & Meatballs, which is straight from the cookbook of co-owner Matt Rootes' mother. The sauce was sweet and plentiful while the meatballs were hearty and succulent. I didn't want to gorge myself on the first entree, but I couldn't seem to stop twirling those perfectly-boiled noodles around my fork...

Next up was a Wood Grilled Steak with mashed potatoes and broccoli. I heard once that butter wasn't a carb, so I spread it on thick and cut myself a piece with a crispy fat edge—juicy, tender, and lean. I didn't eat all 12 oz., but I very easily could have.

The Fork N' Knife BBQ Ribs at Matt & Tony's are straight out of a BBQ fairy tale. This healthy helping of slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone meat is smothered in sauce and almost impossible to put down. You may not be excusing yourself to Google what you just nervously and unknowingly ordered, but you'll probably require a bathroom mirror to make sure you've wiped all the sauce off your mug after devouring these racks.

Feeling like Thanksgiving? Have a little alternative celebration for yourself with Matt & Tony's Half Roasted Chicken with crushed herbs and lemon butter. Slip into a food coma with the sides of potatoes and seasonal vegetable. Dream a little dream of country gravy (which can be found drowning the fried chicken dinner entree).

Rootes says he and his partner Tony Wildman chose to open Matt & Tony's to give the people of downtown an option for high-quality steaks and seafood at a reasonable price without all the "frou-frou." I, for one, think that's exactly what downtown needs.

While so many other restaurants are reaching for globally-inspired dishes made with ingredients you can pronounce, Matt & Tony's is executing classic comfort dishes you grew up on in a warm, inviting atmosphere—it's like a little slice of home on Short St.

Matt & Tony's is located at 525 Short Street and is open 11am- 10pm Sunday through Thursday and 11am- 11pm Friday and Saturday. Visit mattandtonys.com for more information.

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