As I write this, it’s barely mid-November. But I’ve already found new holiday music to recommend and written a story on handmade candy-canes, so … this Thanksgiving-first guy accepts the holidays are here.
Again, I hope you enjoy reading this column as much I do writing it and that it’s inspired you to discover exciting, entertaining experiences to savor and share throughout the year.
Even though Thanksgiving has passed, I’d still like to share something for which I’m thankful. Ordering everything off a menu at tables for one (or two) is unsustainable for waistlines and bottom lines. So I’m thankful for friends who occasionally join us and their own recommendations on places to try.
Thus, Mollie and Ken’s raves for O-Ishi led us to the rare West Lafayette State Street restaurant we had not yet visited. Don’t be scared: Construction is (more or less) complete and roundabouts are easy.
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O-Ishi mainly offers Japanese fare, but there also are Korean and Chinese dishes, as well as the slightest hint of an Indian influence. And although you’ll see that spicy red-pepper icon next to a lot of the dishes, O-Ishi offers plenty of options for all palates.
They specialize in shabu shabu, a self-cooked hotpot platter, but we split the difference down the spice line with a quartet of dishes — Green Bean Stir Fry, Ground Pork with Steamed Buns, Hot and Spicy Noodle Soup with Beef and, as a Chinese-staple standby, Chicken with Broccoli. Despite putting a good dent in all four, we are ample with leftovers this week.
The first dish may not sound like much on its face, but it is an unexpectedly zesty main-course option. It’s flavored with just enough soy sauce to give it a familiar zing. But the sharp crunch of the green beans remains, and it’s instead the natural ingredients of garlic and fermented black beans that round out the profile.
The green beans are a great cooling counterpoint to the next two dishes on the list. Stuff the hand-steamed buns with as much ground pork as they can hold, sloppy joe-style, and dig in to this delicious, devilishly hot dish; fret not, for you can scoop what falls out with a fork. And don’t be fooled by portion expectations when you see the word “soup.” It arrives in a steaming-hot tureen, with a sour broth that catches you off-guard in all the best ways.
The Chinese platter was destined to pale in comparison. While easily the least surprising dish, it wisely avoids the sauce-slathered trap and offers good cuts of chicken, fresh vegetables and a side of “cheese crunch.” It’s hard to not indulge curiosity for something so named. Friends, “cheese crunch” is a lightly fried piece of heaven – filled with cream cheese and spices and paired as a side. (You can also get an appetizer order of cheese crunch – a must on our eventual return.)
Translated from Japanese, the word “oishii” means “an enjoyable eating experience.” Who says there’s no more truth in advertising?
IF YOU GO
- 213 E. State St.
- West Lafayette, IN
- (765) 743-3838
- Noon to 10:30 p.m. daily
- $3.95 to $11.95
- $4.95 to $10.95
- SHABU SHABU
- $7.95 to $19.95
- Green Bean Stir Fry
- Ground Pork with Steamed Buns
- Hot and Spicy Noodle Soup with Beef
- Cheese Crunch