Meshikou Ramen

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Growing up, the only ramen noodles I ever knew were the cheap, crunchy ones that were prepared by adding hot water and often eaten by poor college students. Vowing to do better by my own children, I recently took the family to Meshikou to sample authentic ramen, or Japanese noodle soup.

On the afternoon we visited, the power had gone out in the Bethel Road shopping center where the restaurant is located. The staff seemed a little surprised that we were willing to eat in semi-darkness but willingly sat us at a table near a window.

We had a lot of questions about the menu and our server patiently answered all of them - conferring with cooks when necessary.

We ordered three appetizers and loved them all. The Meshikou Karaage ($7), a marinated fried chicken, was an upscale chicken nugget that I think would appeal to even the pickiest kid palate. The Crab Taco ($7) slathered in slaw and sweet-and-spicy pickle chips also was delicious. When we ordered the Barbecue Chashu Bun ($7.50), I was expecting a traditional Asian bun. Meshikou's was more like a taco with the bun serving as a shell that held braised pork topped with barbecue sauce and greens. It was a tasty take on the dish.

Meshikou puts a lot of focus on its broth, spending hours preparing it from scratch. It is the base for all the soups but takes on different flavors with the addition of garlic paste, soy sauce or other seasoning. It is time well-spent. The result is a rich, flavorful broth that makes a robust base for its dishes. The noodles that accompanied it were springy and fresh.

We each ordered a ramen soup, though we easily could have split two for the four of us. The boys were a little apprehensive about some of the ingredients but agreed to try it. They are huge soup eaters, packing it in their lunch several days a week.

My husband and oldest son eagerly ordered soups that had some kick to them (Fireball Miso Ramen, $13, and Spicy Miso Paitan Ramen, $11). They were very flavorful and not so spicy that they were uncomfortable to eat. Alex and I tried the Shoyu Chintan Ramen ($11). I had pork added to mine and he chose tofu. The broth's earthy flavor combined nicely with the meat, tofu and vegetables.

All of the food was excellent but it's not a place for picky eaters or small children. They don't have a kids' menu or a changing area in the bathroom.

-Melissa Kossler Dutton

I consider myself a soup connoisseur. I take it in my lunch most days. I also always ask what the soup of the day is when I go to restaurants. So I was pretty excited to try ramen, which my mom told me is a Japanese soup served with long noodles. I also like going to Japanese steakhouses where they prepare the food at your table. This was very different. The food was very interesting. I haven't had very many meals that tasted like it.

I really liked the Meshikou Karaage, a fried chicken appetizer that came with a spicy, citrusy dipping sauce. The dish was similar to chicken nuggets but there was less breading.

For my main dish, I ordered Spicy Miso Paitan Ramen. This is chicken broth mixed with a spicy chili paste. The broth was delicious. It was very flavorful. When I ordered it, I was a little concerned by some of the ingredients, especially the mushrooms and the marinated soft-boiled egg. While the mushrooms were different than the mushrooms you get on pizza, I still didn't like them. The egg, however, was really good. I almost didn't try it but I'm glad I did.

I also liked that the soup contained so many noodles. I tried using my spoon to scoop them up but found chopsticks work best. The noodles made the soup really filling. I took half of it home.

My brother and I enjoyed this place but other kids might not. The food is really different. The flavors are very intense. I recommend it for adventurous eaters.

-Nick Dutton

When I heard that we were going to a Japanese soup restaurant, I was excited because I love the soup that is served at Japanese steakhouses. The soup at Meshikou Ramen is very different.

We ordered three appetizers. My favorite was the Crab Taco. I liked the way the slaw mixed with crab. It was served in a crunchy shell that made the whole thing taste great.

I ordered the Shoyu Chintan Ramen, which is clear chicken broth and thin straight noodles. That soup was supposed to come with braised pork tenderloin or pork belly, but I asked if I could have tofu in mine. I don't like a lot of meats so I eat a lot of tofu. (When I was little, I used to tell people tofu was my favorite meat.) The tofu absorbed the flavor of the broth nicely and was a good addition to the soup.

I'm not sure every kid would like ramen because it has a lot of things in it that kids don't like, for example mushrooms, scallions and greens. I normally hate mushrooms but these were very different. They were cut into long strips - almost like a noodle. They didn't have the gross texture that normal mushrooms do. I think only kids who really love to try new things would enjoy this restaurant. I think the whole menu would be new to most kids.

However, if your kid loves seafood the way I do, take them there for the crab tacos. They're something special.

-Alex Dutton