The recently ended holiday season was quite a bit of fun, and it involved countless food-related events that were worth blogging about. I’ve already written about a few of those, lebkuchen cookies and Swedish rye bread for example. But for every one blog I wrote, it seems like there were three or four other things I that could write about—indeed that I wanted to write about. I just couldn’t find the time though. I was too busy cooking and eating!
In an attempt to make up for the lack of posts over the past month, I’m going to recount one definite highlight from that period of time.
Earlier this year, Tania started working as a part-time tour guide for Columbus Food Adventures. If you’ve been on the German Village walking food tour any time over the past several months, she’s probably been the one instructing you about the history and architecture of German Village and introducing you to the many awesome restaurants. Like many companies out there, Columbus Food Adventures has a holiday party. But unlike other companies, the entire business is built upon introducing people to awesome and interesting food. So, it’s only logical that the holiday party would be similarly food-focused.
And it was.
You may have seen the Columbus Food Adventures van around town—it’s a 15 passenger van with the company’s logo emblazoned on the side. Usually, it’s used to traverse between taco trucks on the Taco Truck Tour, or ethnic eateries on the Alt Eats Tour. But the night of the party, it was used to transport us to a mysterious location.
The mystery was solved when we pulled up in an unassuming strip mall just off of Sawmill road, and we found ourselves standing in front of Kihachi—one of the most renowned restaurants in all of Columbus. (Read more about Kihachi, and here and here.) While any trip to Kihachi is sure to be a treat, we were in the company of experts (and, not to mention, the Foursquare mayor in the person of Columbus Food Adventures founder Bethia Woolf).
First up were some amazing appetizers, really unlike anything I’ve had before. We had freshwater shrimp, ginkgo nuts, and fried burdock root. The flavors of each really stood out as being unique—there was no “tastes like chicken” here. Indeed, someone even commented that the ginkgo nuts were unlike anything they’ve ever eaten.
Even the freshwater shrimp (which were just eaten whole) stood out as being significantly different than any other crustacean preparation I’ve ever had.
The appetizers were only the beginning however. After we finished with those it was on to the main event: shabu shabu. For those not familiar with shabu shabu (translated “swish, swish”), it’s a hotpot-like dish, where you cook the food at your table in a boiling broth. Bethia has searched high and low throughout Columbus for good shabu shabu, and it should come as no surprise that the best in town can be found at Kihachi.
What is surprising however, is that she found it in the first place. It’s not even on the menu! (I guess there are some perks to being the Mayor. And being friends with the Mayor.)
So, the way shabu shabu works is that first they place a large bowl of boiling broth on your table. This is what you cook in.
Then come all of the vegetables. Greens, mushrooms, tofu, and other delicious things get tossed into the broth. These can take a little while to cook (but not too long), so they go in first. They also help add flavor when you get to the next step: the beef.
The beef for shabu shabu is incredibly thinly sliced and cooks in a matter of seconds. You cook it by simply swishing it around in the broth. Hence, “swish swish.” Once it’s cooked you can either eat it directly, or dip it in one of the two sauces: sesame or ponzu. All three options are delicious, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do my fair share of all three.
Just when you’re fully and happily stuffed, when you are about to pronounce that you can’t eat any more, that’s when the final step of shabu shabu comes: the noodles. All this time, you’ve been cooking away, adding vegetables and delicious meat flavor to the broth. So, that can’t go to waste can it? Indeed it can’t. In go the noodles , and you hope and pray that you can find room somewhere for them.
As great as shabu shabu is, it’s not just about the food and the eating. It’s a communal activity, one that is best spent together with friends. And that’s really what made the evening out so special. It’s great to be able to relax and spend time with great people, people who care about the same things you do. Things like delicious awesome food—and things like how to make Columbus a more interesting place, or at least show others how awesome it already is.
I know I’m not the most disinterested of individuals, but our night at Kihachi just reinforces how good Bethia and Andy at Columbus Food Adventures are at spotlighting great things to eat around town. You may not be able to get your own customized Kihachi experience (or, you never know, maybe you can) but you can always book one of their other great food tours.