It’s called the Sogo Asian Bistro, and I am not joking, it’s like the Twilight Zone or something.
Why is there an awesome sushi place – with a full, unbelievably scrumptious menu of Asian food – sitting here in the middle of a place that really, really wants everybody to stop calling it Grovetucky?
Well, I don’t know. I’ve spoken with the owners at length, and they are from right here in Grove City, so it’s not a market research problem. They opened their restaurant here on purpose, knowing full well what Grovetucky was all about.
I personally like the name Grovetucky. As a fellow whose family comes from Actual Kentucky, I would prefer they change the name officially. But around here, folks are kind of strange about it. You see, they’re developing the east and south sides of town into swank suburbs full of gargantuan houses with streets named Platinum Way and Emerald Forest and We Are Definitely Not Hillbillies Avenue.
I don’t know what the hell is so wrong with being a hillbilly – whiskey, guns, trampolines, motorcycles, fried chicken. If I have to pick a label and live with it forever, that’s the one I’ll take.
But anyway, no, you would not expect to find sushi in Grovetucky outside of the Giant Eagle. So when you walk into this place, you might be expecting something more like the China Buffet.
Don’t worry. China Buffet is right down the street. This place is not cheap, like you might expect a Grove City restaurant to be. It’s fairly expensive by Grove City standards, but it’s a STEAL, once you’ve sat down to eat the food.
My experience with sushi is limited, and this is the first place I’ve had it for real, but my wife knows what she’s talking about. This isn’t just a matter of me not being able to smell and thinking everything chewable is awesome (though I do like stuff you can chew).
This place makes their own egg rolls by hand. Everybody else is buying them frozen exactly like you would, and then dropping them in a deep fryer. These guys – and I didn’t catch their names because they are career sushi chefs from various Asian countries – roll them fresh every day.
The move to make is go right up to the sushi bar. The guys back there are super cool, but the speak very little English, so when you see a length of tentacle sitting there with the other raw ingredients, and you decide to make a joke like, “How much for just the tentacle?” They’re not going to get you. You’ll kind of freak them out.
And then once you order up some actual tentacle, you’ll find that it’s not raw tentacle. This guy cooked that tentacle earlier, and octopus tentacle is a very difficult thing to cook. If you or I cooked it, the result would be a rubbery, tentacle-tasting thing. We’d say, okay, we tried tentacle, let’s go out to Raising Canes.
Instead this expert tentacle-cooker prepares it in a way that even the owner doesn’t understand, then slices it like turkey, wraps it up with some sticky rice and presto. You’re eating tentacle. Have a sip of sake.
Watch out for the sake, by the way. It’s real, too. They serve it warm, and it will make your wife sort of frisky – be prepared.
Anyway, I would be lying if I tried to present myself as a guy who knows anything about sushi, but fortunately, you don’t have to. Order up a couple of the specialty rolls, all aptly named like the Yum-Yum Roll and the Volcano Roll. Eat them with chopsticks – they are already bite-sized.
By the end of dinner Saturday night – our twelfth anniversary if that rings your bell – I was in possession of a full understanding of how Jeremy Piven might have eaten so much of this stuff he became ill.
Also, the owners are super cool. Yen and Kevin are their names, and something tells me they haven’t seen the last of old Tommy C. When they found out about the big number twelve, they went ahead and got us a scoop of green tea ice cream, and deep-fried it so it was crispy on the outside and cold on the inside. There wasn’t a lot of talking for a while after that.
But this isn’t just where you go for sushi. If you are thinking about general Chinese take-out, this is where you go. We have tried practically every Chinese/Asian restaurant in Grovetucky, and if you ask me, the mayor should order the rest of them burned to the ground. They are a pale insult compared to the Sogo Asian Bistro.
Why’s it called a bistro, if it’s Asian? Good question – don’t worry about it. Yen said, well, once the sign’s up it costs money to get it down and change it, you know.
Even more bizarre, I don’t see a website for them. When you are ready to eat, email and I will not only tell you how to get there (71 south out of Columbus to Stringtown road, turn right, 1/4 mile there it is), I will probably meet you there for a tentacle or two while I’m at it.