Saturday, July 4, 2009

Where Next?

We were on the highway to meet our friends visiting Cincinnati from Seattle at a major half-way point -- Columbus. We had just passed the Morse Street exit in downtown Columbus when I received a call with profuse apologies that they were running late and had not yet left.

Bug didn't need to be told twice where we were near as he crossed several lanes of the nearly empty highway and headed to Restaurant Hama at Easton Town Center. Ironically, this was the original place we planned to meet.

We've gone to Hama 7-8 times, traveling 140 miles each way through construction, rain, and snow. Our previous trip took place when we went to Wright-Patterson AFB last summer.

Each time we go to Hama, there are a few things that do not change:
- Bug orders ramen (as much as he says he'll try something different)
- some form of tempura roll
- beef carpaccio roll.

We've eaten tempura rolls, makizushi (roll) that has been dipped in tempura batter then deep fried prior to cutting, at other places. Hama is one of two places that does it well without being doughy or overcooked. Parallax is the first place we had this type of roll, and the only other place we've been to that has perfected this technique.

Hama Philly Carpaccio
Sunday Morning + beef carpaccio rolls

To fill our tempura sushi requisite, we ordered a Sunday Morning roll ($5.00), a Philly roll (smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber) tempura. The outside was crispy with a faintly sweet flavor of the tempura batter and tempura sauce. The inside was barely warmed with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber.

As its name states, the beef carpaccio roll ($8.00) has raw beef. The beef is thinly sliced and partially encases an avocado and cucumber roll. I do not like wasabi, but with this roll, I actually indulge in a bit of wasabi mixed into my shoyu! There's something about raw beef, shoyu, and a bit of wasabi that makes for a stunning combination.

The pacing of our meal this time around was a bit rushed, which wasn't entirely a bad thing since we were on a timetable. We consume our food fairly quickly, and our salad arrived before we were finished with our sushi.

Hama Side Salad
Salad greens with onion dressing

The onion dressing is different from the typical dressing you get at many Japanese restaurants. By the time I took my 4th bite, my miso soup arrived.

I was pleasantly surprised by the soup. I don't recall a restaurant that has served shiromiso of this type. I am accustomed to being served salty and strong miso soup, which is all right; however, I enjoy lighter, less salty, and slightly sweet miso.

Hama Miso Soup
Miso soup

After 3-4 sips, I gave my soup to Bug, since his order did not come with a separate bowl of soup. He was only able to finish half of the soup, when his shoyu ramen ($10) with menma (marinated sliced bamboo shoots), boiled egg half, a slice of pork, wakame (seaweed), and green onions; tempura side ($5); cucumber sunomono; and tempura dipping sauce arrived.

No one ever gets the amount of grated daikon I'm going to take a wild guess and say we're weird. We prefer a mound of grated daikon, where the peak is as high as the sauce level. Yes, I can be blamed for corrupting Bug into liking it this way.

Hama Tempura Ramen
Shoyu ramen with shrimp tempura, cucumbers

Hama has the best ramen in the state of Ohio. Sakura, a casual restaurant in N Olmsted that closed down 12+ years ago, had good ramen too. We are still in search for a place closer to home that's just as good.

What makes Hama different? The shoyu broth is done well, with a crisp flavor that is not salty, too sweet, or greasy. The noodles are al dente. I'm not sure why Cleveland restaurants have such a horrible time getting ramen out before it's mush and/or serve it with meh-tasting broth.

This time around, the noodles were brought out slightly more done than usual. It still had a bite, but not as much. Towards the bottom of the bowl, I'm sure the noodles had gotten a bit broth-logged.

Hama Tempura

Bug gave me an entire shrimp tempura. Yay! I love crispy shrimp tempura that has just the right amount of batter. Maybe I'll order tendon (tempura donburi) next time. The tempura basket also came with broccoli, onion, and sweet potato tempura.

Bug urged me to order something different, so I ordered a hibachi beef teishoku ($22.00). The box arrived with white rice, 4 types of salad (pickled daikon and carrot slivers, seaweed in sesame oil, squid salad, and pickled cucumbers), California roll, 3 nigirizushi (yellowfin, tuna, and salmon), and beef with vegetables.

Hama Hibachi Beef Box
Hibachi beef box

I should have stuck with the bulgogi box! I know there is something fundamentally wrong with going to a Japanese place and ordering a Korean dish, but Hama does it really well!

While the dish wasn't prepared poorly, throughout my entree I kept thinking I should have ordered the bulgogi. This was much more than I wanted to spend, too. At least I know for next time.

The main entree was as one would imagine, beef fried with zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and onions to be eaten with the grated daikon with shoyu in the center. The sauce was pretty good, albeit stout, with the shrimp tempura.

Hama Pickled Vegetables
Salad medley

I loved the salads. My favorite was the seaweed salad, which is mixed with sesame oil. The squid salad was a bit drier than usual, but was still all right. The pickled cucumbers were vibrant and great with rice. The slivered daikon and carrots were lightly pickled so it was a nice balance to the cucumbers.

Since I don't really eat raw fish, I gave Bug my nigirizushi.

Partway through our entree, my phone buzzed, so we quickly wrapped up our meal and left to meet our friends.

- Cassaendra

Restaurant Hama
3945 Easton Sta
Columbus, OH 43219
(614) 478-9543

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