The Random Restaurant Tour (XIII)

Some restaurant locations just seem star-crossed.  A new place opens up at the spot, seems to do well for a time, then closes, the building stands vacant for an extended period, and after a few years you’re trying to remember how many restaurants have actually operated in the space.  So it is with a building at the corner of Spring and High in downtown Columbus, which once was a Wendy’s, and at one point was a nice tapas-type place with a bar and outdoor seating.  Hey, has it been anything else?

Well, now the building houses Haveli Bistro, an Indian restaurant.  Hope springs eternal!

JV and I visited the HB yesterday for lunch.  The place was jammed with a lot of people who were angling for the buffet, and we had to wait briefly to be seated.  It seems that diners have two options — a lunch buffet, upstairs, or ordering from a very limited lunch menu, downstairs.  Because of the wait for the buffet, we chose the downstairs option, which allows you to choose from a non-vegetarian platter, a vegetarian platter, and a biryani platter.  The specific items on your plate depend upon what’s being served that day, as disclosed on a typed sheet at the front counter, and it doesn’t appear that you can choose your spice level.  (At least, we weren’t offered that option.)

JV and I went for the non-vegetarian platter, which turned out to be two chicken dishes, a chicken “lollipop,” rice, and two pieces of naan, with a dessert.  The food was served on a kind of cafeteria platter that reminded us of the Swanson frozen dinners of days gone by, except that the platter was plastic instead of foil.  (No “TV trays” in sight, however!)  I’m not sure of the specific names of chicken dishes, but they were good and served at a moderate spice level, and the chicken lollipop was tasty and not overly breaded.  I finished them all.  The dessert was a kind of vermicelli disk soaked in a sweet liquid.  I’m not a dessert guy so I tried a bite and decided I’d pass on the rest.

Lunch at Haveli Bistro isn’t really comparable to lunch at Indian Oven, with its full menu and terrific service, and my allegiance to IO as the best Indian restaurant in town, and one of the best Columbus restaurants, period, is unyielding.  Nevertheless, the Haveli Bistro is a nice option for people downtown who have a taste for some ethnic food.  Will the HB be able to exorcise the ghosts of restaurants past?  Stay tuned.

Ready For That Special Jackfruit And Turkey Tail Recipe

In addition to allowing me to experience the succulent dumplings of Momo Ghar, my recent journey to Morse Road with Dr. Science also introduced me to the wonders of the Saraga international grocery store, where Momo Ghar is located.

Saraga is found in one of the ubiquitous Morse Road strip malls and is housed in what used to be a Toys ‘R Us store.  Many people consider it to be the finest ethnic grocery store in Columbus.  If ethnic food shoppers can be said to vote with their feet, that view may be right — when we were there Thursday afternoon, the place was packed with people of all stripes, buying all kinds of food that would be considered absurdly exotic and wouldn’t be found in your standard American supermarket.

You know that you’re going to a different kind of grocery store when the first thing you encounter on your way in is an enormous crate of watermelon-sized, and disturbingly textured, jackfruit — which looks like the kind of fruit aliens should be slobbering over in a Star Trek scene.  But the jackfruit is a pretty mild surprise compared to what you find inside the store.  There’s an entire aisle of different kinds of frozen “pot sticker” dumplings, for example, and the place is packed with every imaginable kind of sauce and spice, heaps of unusual produce, a halal butcher shop, a Mexican bakery, a bustling fish shop, large sacks of different kinds of rice, cooking implements, and even clothing.  The meat aisle is particularly impressive, with lamb, goat cubes, prepackaged duck feet, and “fresh turkey tail,” among other options.  I knew that some cultures like duck feet, but I found myself wondering where in the world people might confess to a hankering for some good old fresh turkey tail.

What Saraga tells you is that Columbus has a large and diverse immigrant population, which is one of the many things that make our community a cool place to live.  I’ll be back because I’d like to take a closer look at that pot sticker aisle and browse around in search of something interesting to have for dinner.  And now I know where to go if I run across a particularly mouthwatering jackfruit and turkey tail recipe.