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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.

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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)

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Food & Drink

Riesling and Relaxation: Dublin’s new wine bar puts hospitality first

Mike Thomas

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While a spontaneous trip to the Napa Valley might be out of your budget, fans of wine in Central Ohio can experience a taste of the California lifestyle right in the heart of Dublin.

“I spent a lot of time on the west coast in my previous professional life, and it has just become the inspiration for the vibe in the space,” explains Coast Wine House owner Dustin Snow, who recently opened shop after pivoting out of a career in corporate retail. “We want to transport you to a different place, and the kind of optimism and pace of life in California is something that we wanted to bring here as much as we could.”

Since opening their doors in late 2019, Snow and his wife and business partner Molly had a clear vision for their business. Turned off by the decidedly highbrow atmosphere of the traditional wine bar, the two hoped to create a relaxing, unpretentious environment for their guests to enjoy.

Photos: Olivia K. James

“People are drinking wine a lot. They’re drinking it at home, they are drinking it [while] out to dinner, but it didn’t seem like they were really going to wine bars,” Snow says of the research that he and his team undertook before opening Coast. “Through that research, we developed a space that was just as much about the wine as it was about creating a really approachable, relaxed, comfortable environment.”

Even from the street, the homey, welcoming nature of Coast Wine House is immediately obvious. Converted from an old residential home near the heart of Old Dublin, the interior of the space charms with its rustic hardwood floors, dinner table-style seating, and inviting hearth.

“Our number one thing is that we want you to feel like you’re coming into our home and sharing a glass of wine with us, as opposed to bellying up to a crowded bar,” Snow says of the wine house’s laid-back vibes.

Not exactly a wine connoisseur? No problem. You won’t find the words “fine wines” used anywhere at Coast, nor will a sommelier try to drill you with hard science about tannins and terroir. Instead, Snow’s hospitality-first approach focuses on the stories surrounding individual winemakers, helping the drinker understand the unique values behind each product.

Above all, Coast Wine House explores the potential of wine to serve as the centerpiece to meaningful social interaction. To that end, Snow knew that the modern, resurgent Dublin would serve as the perfect home for his business.

“Dublin is doing everything right to get people to live here, to play here, and to work here. Bridge Park is evidence of that,” he says. “There are a lot of young families moving outside the outer belt, and [Dublin] is becoming a model for this sort of post-suburban community that I think a lot of other communities from around the country are going to look at Dublin and say, ‘OK, what are they doing and how can we replicate that?’”

To help promote exploration, the menu at Coast typically features 15–20 wine-by-the- glass options. Visitors can also sample 2 oz. pours, either just to taste, or for a “make your own flight” experience. For the casual wine drinker, there are plenty of familiar favorites (Cabernet, Chardonnay) with plenty more that might be less commonly known—a Kerner from Northern Italy, Aglianico from Southern Italy, or the Carignon from Santa Barbara, to name just a few.

With apologies to the TGIF set, you won’t find margaritas or cheap happy hour deals here. What Coast does offer is a lineup of classic cocktails that speak to the winemaking tradition, highlighting ingredients like sherry and vermouth—both of which are actually fortified wines. For the ardent hop heads, Coast keeps a selection of locally- produced brews on-hand as well.

A menu of light shareables joins the mix, currently featuring such classic, wine-friendly staples as cheese, olives, and hummus. Snow plans to grow this portion of the menu in time, but emphasizes that the fare on display will never amount to full-size entrees.

Coast’s in-house bottle shop has around 130 wines from around the world in stock. Whether you take one to go, or open it right there, Snow and his team will help you select the right bottle for any taste or occasion. Right now, a Piquepoul de Pinet is one of his favorites.

“Piquepoul is a dry white wine out of Southern France. It is bright, it’s refreshing, it’s got a good balance of citrus and minerality, and it’s really, really well-priced,” he explains. “It’s very approachable—one that we would call a ‘porch pounder’ around these parts.”

For a sample of Coast’s wine-centered social environment, check out one of its special events. Past events have included an exclusive 12 seat dinner highlighting four to five wines of a particular winemaker, or an engagement featuring $10 flights showcasing wine-producing regions from around the globe.

Looking for a place to enjoy a glass of wine without the pretensions of many wine bars and specialty shops? Just head for the Coast.

To learn more, visit Facebook, and be sure to check coastwinehouse.com.

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Food & Drink

Lent Lowdown: 5 of our favorite Friday fish spots

Mike Thomas

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Not having grown up in the Catholic tradition, I have little firsthand experience of Lent. To me, a consummate junk food junkie, this time of year has meant a chance to snag a discounted filet-o-fish from McD's and not much else.

Not content to wallow in ignorance through another season of Lent, I took to Google to learn the meaning behind this religious observance. While I'm still a few credits shy of a degree in theology, good old Wikipedia managed to shed some light on the history and tradition behind this time of prayer, penance, and self-denial.

Even if some basic research yields a wealth of knowledge on the subject, the widely known facts remain essential to the experience of Lent. If you're observing tradition, you're probably giving something up for 40 days. You might be fasting, or spending more time in prayer. But for all the faithful, a big unifying factor is the "no meat on Friday" rule that typically leads to an uptick in fish consumption.

Looking for the best places to score the goods on these meatless Fridays? 614NOW has you covered. Refer to this list of favorite local establishments that are ready to serve your Lenten needs.

Old Bag of Nails | Multiple Locations

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This popular central Ohio chain stocks plenty of seafood favorites year round, but Lent is truly their time to shine. Dinners, platters, or po' boys - blackened, Cajun, or fried. This menu is overflowing with the sea's bounty, but the star of the show is the British Style Fish & Chips ($13.99).

Queen's Table | Find the truck

The official meal of Comfest—The Fish Boat—is actually available year-round, but it's not the easiest to come by. Queen's Table operates as a food truck throughout the year, so be on the lookout for the Columbus seafood classic next time you need a lent-friendly lunch. (Sites like street food finder are a big help in tracking down your favorite mobile eats.)

Mitchell's Fish Market | 1245 Olentangy River Rd, Columbus

https://www.instagram.com/p/BtoboFwAQUF/

Need I say more? For a high-end Friday night out, you really can't go wrong with this campus-adjacent seafood joint from Columbus' culinary king.

City BBQ | Multiple Locations

Each year on honor of Lent, Columbus' BBQ favorite adds fish to their normally red-meat centered menu. Now through April 4, dishes featuring southern-fried catfish and Atlantic smoked salmon join the party. City BBQ's catfish is some of the best around, and is definitely worth seeking out at least once during this limited annual appearance.

Rooster's | Multiple Locations

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We all know it's a fun casual joint, but did you know they have fish on the menu? Easily lost in the shuffle between dumpster fries and the biggest wings around, Rooster's generously-sized battered fish sandwich comes in at a very wallet friendly $7.59. And after all, cheese-covered tots are Lent friendly, aren't they?

Of course, fish fries will be going down across numerous churches throughout the season. This handy list from WBNS will help you find one close to you.

What are your go-to places to eat during Lent? Let us know in the comments.

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2 Columbus chefs in the running for top culinary award

614now Staff

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For the first time in eight years, Columbus chefs will vie for coveted honors from the James Beard Foundation according to Columbus Monthly.

Celebrating its 30th year in 2020, the James Beard Award is considered one of the culinary field's highest honors. Ray Rays Hog Pit owner James Anderson has been named as a semifinalist for the honor of "Best Chef: Great Lakes," while Spencer Budros, co-owner of Pistacia Vera, was nominated for Outstanding Baker.

The last time Columbus chefs were considered for an award from the foundation was 2012, when chefs Richard Blondin and Kent Rigsby were named semifinalists.

Finalists for the awards will be announced on March 25.

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