Last Sunday was Valentine’s Day. At the Collier house it was an all Valentine’s weekend! Saturday and Sunday we had plans with my most favorite little people; Bryce, Blake and Ava. So Friday was the night for Bob and me to celebrate. We went to dinner at one of Gahanna’s best kept secrets; Tora.
Tora opened December 11th 2009, with no fanfare and no intense advertising that I know of. It seemed like one day all of a sudden it was open! Well, of course I had been watching and waiting with great anticipation for its opening. I’m sure I was driving Bob absolutely crazy about it. Every time we were anywhere near it I would say, “I really want to try that restaurant!” I said it like it was the first time he’d heard it. Thank God he is a patient man.
So one evening we went to Tora with Lonnie. We ordered all kinds of awesome appetizers and dinner entrees and dessert even. We shared everything and enjoyed every single dish. I, of course, did not have my camera with me. I took pictures on my phone which turned out so badly that I simply could not put you through the agony of having to look at them. So I vowed to go back with my camera and get good photos! The food was so good that two nights later on New Year’s Eve, we ordered carry out to take as appetizers to the party we were attending!
On my birthday Laura Lee took me to Tora. Again, I forgot my camera. I had my new iPhone, which I had just gotten as my bday present from Bob. But, um…I didn’t quite know how to use the darn thing yet. So once again, my pictures looked like crap. I vowed to go back with my camera and get good photos! (No, this was not a ploy to make sure I’d get back soon!)
Enter Valentine’s Day weekend. Decidedly, I wanted to celebrate at Tora…with my camera! So let me tell you about one of my new favorite restaurants:
Tora means “tiger” in Japanese. The owners, Won Lee & Hye Young Han, have done a wonderful job of transforming what used to be Milano’s (a small Italian place). The result of their hard work is absolutely beautiful. Upon entering the restaurant we immediately saw the gorgeous sushi bar. And every single time we have entered, we have been greeted with huge smiles from the sushi chefs! What a pleasure!
Each time I have been to Tora I have been greeted at the front door by Han. Han is so gracious that she makes me feel like I am being welcomed into her home. She is just delightful!
As is the entire staff. Every single member of the wait staff has gone out of their way to make our visits memorable. This is Pedro…I want to take him home with me. His smile simply lights up the entire restaurant. See how the picture is somewhat blurry? That is because Pedro moves so fast when he changes the tables! (It can’t possibly be that my picture taking skills are lacking!)
Now let’s get down to the meat of the matter….so to speak. Bob and I set out to try a number of dishes. We are selfless and giving that way. We figured that to give you an adequate picture of Tora, it was imperative that we order a fair number of items from the menu. Chef Scott Kim is a genius! Did you know that he has been cooking in restaurants for 14 years before coming to Tora? Immediately before Tora,he was at Restaurant Hama in Easton, also owned by Won & Han. (His resume also includes cooking at Morimoto in Philadelphia.) So need I say that presentation is beyond incredible!!!
Okay. We began our journey with “Spicy Tuna Sashimi Tempura-deep fried with shiso leaf served with chef’s special white teriyaki sauce.” What a way to start! This was so good you cannot believe it. The flavor was so delicate and the sauce compliments the sashimi so perfectly. When we finished it I wanted to start it all over again! But there are so many other things to try. So onward we go!
Next up was the “Tora Special Roll-shrimp tempura roll with spicy snow crab on top.” This is a definite must when you visit Tora. I loved this roll. Absolutely, positively loved it! I mean, who doesn’t like shrimp tempura? What’s not to like about it? Then add spicy snow crab on top? Oh my. I just simply sighed when I ate this roll. It was exquisite.
This is a combination of single items we ordered. (Note: I am not supposed to eat raw sushi because of my suppressed immune system. And if by chance any of my doctors are reading this, I so did not sample any of the raw seafood here. Really! I mean it. I was dining with the transplant police, aka Bob!) From left to right: salmon, halibut, charred albacore, and tamago. Bob said the salmon, halibut and charred albacore were delicious. This was the first time he tried halibut sushi and he definitely would order it again. The tamago (egg) was mine and it was delicious. Okay, so I did try a little bite of the charred albacore. Very interesting! The rim of cooked fish against its raw counterpart was a study in contrast. The same fish, raw and cooked, tastes so different! I was surprised and pleased.
Did you notice the artistry on the halibut? I loved it! The attention to detail was awesome. Check back on the picture of the entire plate.
Do you see the cucumber at the left end? It’s whimsical! The chefs just delight me!
This is edamame. Edamame are boiled soybeans. They are really fun to eat and are delicious. We forgot to order them, so I took a picture of the edamame at the table next to us. I’m resourceful that way.
Now for our entrees...and yes, at this point we could have stopped. But we didn’t. Was that dedication, or what? Bob and I happened to order the same dinners that we had the first time we were here. We enjoyed them so much. When I was here with Laura Lee, I had the Ramen Soup. It was just the best I’ve ever had. Even surpassing what I experienced in Maui at a little restaurant called “Ramen Ya”. I loved it!
My main course began with a salad. Served in the cutest “bowl” (I just love the dishes here), it had mixed greens and a vinaigrette that was light with just a touch of sweetness. Really, a perfect palate cleanser!
Bob’s meal started off with miso soup. He said it was very good. The broth was savory with excellent flavor, and tofu added a nice smooth texture.
My entree was “Bulgogi Beef Box-served with squid salad, seaweed salad, spring roll, 6 pieces of California roll and daily fresh vegetables.” Actually, both times I’ve had this it has had potato salad instead of the fresh daily vegetables. And that has been perfectly okay by me! I think the Bulgogi box is divine. I am totally enamored with it. I swear the Bulgogi, which is “thinly sliced beef marinated in Korean BBQ sauce and sautéed with mushrooms and onions and served on a bed of rice” literally melted in my mouth...oh my. The flavor was incredible. And believe me, Tora was not shy with the portion size. The beef filled one section of the box and rice filled the opposite. Simply put, it was pure heaven.
The seaweed and squid salad, which have always been favorites of mine were the perfect compliment. Cool and yummy, they went right along with the California roll and the spring rolls. The spring rolls had a bit of sweet Thai chili sauce drizzled over them. Have I mentioned I loved this box?! I could go on and on, but I must continue with the rest of the meal. It is not to be missed either!
Bob’s main course was the “Korean Style Stone Pot-vegetables, beef and egg on a bed of rice with your choice of teriyaki or spicy sauce”. The first time he had it he got both of the sauces. This time he had the spicy. The stone pot dinner was served in a pot, a very hot pot! The rice was on the bottom and formed an unbelievably crunchy rice goodness. Next were strips of beef, mushrooms, shredded carrots, and sliced green onion. Just before serving, an egg was cracked over the top. The stone pot retained enough heat so that the egg cooked as it was mixed with the other ingredients. A dish of sauce accompanied the stone pot meal. It was so good. Take a look…
This is a happy man!
Every time I have been to Tora, I have been intrigued by the Korean flavored vodka that is on the drink menu. Since this was our Valentine’s Day celebration I took a walk on the wild side and ordered the grape Korean vodka. Both Bob and I thought it would be like an after dinner drink. You know, like a shot or two? It arrived in a teapot! With the cutest tiniest little cup I think I’ve ever seen. It was cold, as you would expect. I took the first sip rather tentatively, not really knowing what to expect. It was really good. It wasn’t so strong it knocked me off of my seat; so obviously it wasn’t straight vodka. And there was plenty there. I’m thinking maybe this is something I should have ordered to drink along with dinner? Evidently I should have asked. The bottom line is that I did like it. And I will order it again. But I’ll order it at the beginning of the meal. It also comes in lemon and yogurt flavors. I’d like to try the lemon. In fact, I think I’ll just do that next time!
Did we have dessert? Why, of course we did! This was my “Black Tie Chocolate Cake-chocolate brownie layered with creamy white chocolate filling, then topped with a moist chocolate cake and velvet fudge icing”. Yeah, can you even wrap your mind around that? It was over-the-top good. All that chocolate goodness, along with the white chocolate filling (I love white chocolate) was so, so good.
Bob’s dessert was “Tempura Ice Cream-ice cream wrapped in slices of pound cake and tempura deep fried (flavors: green tea, chocolate, vanilla, red beans)”. It was topped with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and an orange slice. I can’t say this was a favorite of mine. I've had several other desserts at Tora that I've liked better. The Raspberry Mascarpone Torte was awesome, the Banana Fritters were totally yummy,and the Mochi was really interesting and good! Bob certainly finished the Tempura Ice Cream and left the bowl clean! He also had coffee with his dessert. Even the coffee was beautifully presented in a great cup with cream, sugar and a choice of sweeteners.
Wow! What a meal! What an evening! Tora is such a special place. A beautiful atmosphere with wonderful food strikingly presented on fun and original dishware. Smiles from all who greet you; and through our meal we wanted for nothing. This is a place you don't want to miss.
Like I said, Tora is one of Gahanna’s best kept secrets. I hope this helps get the word out!
1330 N. Hamilton Road
Gahanna, OH 43230