It has long been a lament of mine that the Chinese food I have now is nothing like I remember it when I was little. As a child I was fascinated with Chinese food, probably because my mother used to take us to Mark Pi's China Gate restaurant, where we once saw Mark Pi making noodles - truly an amazing thing to behold. It was on a tour of Mark Pi's China Gate - I think I was about 9 - where I learned to use chopsticks, where I learned to level them by discreetly pressing the bottoms against my teeth instead of into the rice bowl. It was also where I learned to drink water with chopsticks - but I'll save that for another day. I was amazed by Mark Pi's - the gaudy, over-the-top interior with the giant dragons, the waitresses clad in old fashioned Chinese silk dresses, with a scandalous slit going all the way up the thigh, the little carrot flowers which accompanied every dish. I realize this is American Chinese food, and I probably had sticky orange sweet and sour pork every time I went there, but it was culinary heaven for an adventurous 9 year old. (By the way, that China Gate - 3641 Fishinger Rd in Hilliard - is now the newly-opened Tropical Bistro, opened by former Kahiki employees, which features the same menu and smoking drinks in skulls. I'll definitely be there, fear not. For those new to Columbus or who don't live here, you can read the sad story about the Kahiki here. The legendary landmark was bulldozed to build a Walgreens.)
But I have, of course, digressed: lately, I have been craving some good Chinese, and have since become addicted to the strangely-named CoCo's Grill. While this isn't necessarily gourmet Chinese, per se, it is really good lunch food. They have all the usual suspects, and some of the best Pad Thai, lightly sauced and full of nice crunchy shrimp, I've had in Columbus - better than both I've tried in the North Market, sorry guys. Here's a sampler:
Hot & Sour soup - a classic, not too hot; the perfect thing to chase a rainy-day cold away:
Beef with Broccoli - no scary bits so far with the beef or chicken, covered in nice brown gravy and tossed with fresh broccoli:
General Tso, I will never stop loving you, no matter how much of a cliché you've become:
Info: CoCo's Grill 845 W. 5th Ave in Columbus (West of Olentangy River Rd, just west and further back from the street than Burger King) 614.429.0790.
From the archives - on this day last year I was experimenting with Snickerdoodles.