You've got two new Asian-inspired lunch options downtown — one that has crowds queued up out the door and the other that hasn't quite been discovered yet. Both benefit from friendly staffing and fresh ingredients.
The buzz belongs to Soho Sushi, near the Fourth Street entrance to Tower Place (28 W. Fourth St., 513-246-4261). The prices are reasonable and the rolls won't scare you the way sashimi might. My cubiclemate, a complete sushi novice, has become a regular — and, I might add, under my tutelage, can now use chopsticks like a ninja.
I generally hate walk-up-and-order places, since I never wear a flight suit and I'm not a decider. Actually, it's because I care too much about lunch to risk a bad choice. The staff at Soho Sushi is fairly patient and helps alleviate my ordering anxiety by offering helpful suggestions and letting me take my time.
I've enjoyed the barbecued eel, the calamari is nice and crispy, the salmon is cooked but not done to death and the steak is surprisingly tender and tasty. The only awkward thing about this sushi is that when the thick rolls are sliced the pieces are a bit too big for one bite. It makes for a not dainty dining moment when you try to nibble off half and the other half descends from your chopsticks towards your bosom. You are forewarned.
Rice Rocket Asian Grill, the new “build your own bowl” restaurant, is on Main Street near the county courthouse (825 Main St., 513-898-0944). It shares a block with veteran eateries like Sophia's but is in a space that seems to change hands often. This incarnation is worth a visit. The staff here has also guided me through my order anxiety and, now that I’m a veteran, I have some expert suggestions.
First of all, you can't go wrong with any of the protein options. The beef and the dark-meat chicken are savory, the fish isn't overcooked and received two thumbs up from my taster and the tofu is exceptional — generous pieces dusted with cornstarch and fried crisp.
The fried rice and the soba noodles are pretty salty; if you want low sodium, stick with the steamed rice. It's sticky and easy to eat, even with chopsticks. You can forego starch and start with the freshly steamed veggies as a base — that's called a garden bowl — and I’d suggest adding teriyaki. Now, here are my three hints for your bowls:
• Stir it up: Things are sort of separated when you get your bowl. Mixing makes it better.
• Heat it up: If you like spicy, add the optional chili paste. It'll get your lips nice and burnin'.
• Fresh it up: Add those veggies. They’re good for you. Love, Mom.
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