Merlion Noodle and Rice offers inexpensive, homemade food.
Even in Columbus, which is fertile ground for ethnic restaurants, Merlion Noodle and Rice is something new.
The place, located at 5320 N. High St., in a strip center just south of Worthington, specializes in Singaporean and Malaysian cuisines. It seats 34.
Chef and owner Ricky Chung calls it "street food" - casual, fast and inexpensive, as no single item tops $10.
Chung, who's been cooking for 35 years overseas and in America, said he emphasizes healthy fare - less oil, less salt and no MSG. Along with his wife, Helen, Chung is also making his own chicken stocks, dumplings, soy milk and egg tofu.
So far, an early customer favorite is the char kway teow, a noodle dish with Chinese sausage and barbecue pork. Other specialties include the bak kut-teh, a soup with pork ribs; sweet and sour pork; and Hainan chicken.
For those unfamiliar with the cuisine, there are pictures on the menu and in constant rotation on a TV above the counter.
Certainly, spice levels can be adjusted, but Merlion does not shy away from spicy seasonings, Chung said.
A house-made sambal sauce – a thick paste using dried chiles, garlic, shallots and tamarind, among other ingredients - is available for the daring diner.
The menu is rounded out with Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.
Merlion takes its name from the Malaysian mascot, which has the head of a lion and the body of a fish. Incidentally, Singapore's original name, Singapura, means lion city.
Open three weeks, Merlion has seen the customer base increase each day, Chung said. And they have been showing their appreciation in obvious ways.
"You can see how they eat," he said. "Nothing left on the plate."
Chung's daughters, Angeline and Jennifer, also work at the restaurant. Jennifer is confident the food will appeal to the masses.
"We just want to share it with everybody," she said.
There is no alcohol, but the restaurant has a relationship with Paddy Mac's, a tavern just a few storefronts down.
Merlion is open for lunch and dinner hours daily. For more information, call 614-880-9887.
The owners of Greek Street Tavern have applied the concept to the Polaris area.
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Polaris St. Tavern has claimed the spot most recently occupied by Masala BBQ, 8939 South Old State Road.
John Lazaj, who owns the restaurant with Jimmy Velio, said it's more of a restaurant than a pub.
"Once they walk in, they're really surprised," he said of customers.
The eatery, tucked away in a strip center just north of Polaris Parkway, offers a menu of Greek and Italian classics, as well as traditional pub food, such as wings, gyros, burgers and panini sandwiches. Most entrees are in the $8 to $12 range.
The 1,675-square-foot space seats 47.
Lazaj and Velio opened Greek Street a few months ago in the Kingsdale Shopping Center.
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The city of Worthington has given its approval for the construction of a new Dewey's Pizza at 640 High St.
The 3,500-square-foot restaurant will replace a BP station at the corner of High Street and New England Avenue.
The Cincinnati-based chain, which has a location on West Fifth Avenue in the Grandview Heights area, hopes to open the new store next spring.
The Worthington Dewey's will feature a piazza area in front of the restaurant.