Kuya Ian’s Bistro isn’t exactly new, but moving into a permanent storefront less than a month ago has given it a much-needed home base, its owners say.
The Filipino restaurant offers inexpensive, home-cooked meals and counter-order service at 6863 Flags Center Drive in northeast Columbus near Westerville.
“We actually started simple, but our vision is much bigger,” said Ivan Firmalan, who owns the restaurant with his brother, Roebuck, and their mother, Nonie.
The restaurant seats 24 in the main dining room and another 30 in a private dining room.
Nonie Firmalan is the force behind the menu, which is described as authentically Filipino.
The signature dish is the lechon kawali, crispy fried pork belly served with dipping sauce and garlic rice. Incidentally, it has emerged as the customer favorite in the short time Kuya has been open, Roebuck Firmalan said.
Another house specialty includes kare-kare, which is oxtails braised in a peanut sauce with assorted vegetables. It is the most expensive item on the menu at $15.96.
Beef-shank kare-kare ($11.98) also is an option. All other dishes are priced $10 or less.
Dinner options include all-day breakfast, Filipino-style. A few of the choices are tapsilog, cured beef sauteed in vinegar; cornsilog, corned beef fried with onions and potatoes; and Spamsilog, three pieces of Spam pan fried until crispy.
The bistro also serves adobo chicken – widely considered the national dish of the Philippines – and chop suey, the American-Chinese vegetable dish that gets a touch of Filipino spices.
Kuya Ian’s Bistro was founded about 20 years ago as Nonie’s Filipino Cuisine, making appearances mostly at Ohio festivals, Roebuck Firmalan said.
Catering was added along the way. The family operated a cafe for two years or so in Chuchay’s Market, which has relocated from Reynoldsburg to the same retail center as Kuya.
Kuya, in the Filipino language, means respect to one’s elder brother. That might seem confusing because 10-year-old Ian, namesake of the restaurant, is Ivan’s son and Roebuck’s nephew.
“We wanted to pass the legacy down to Ian when he gets older,” Roebuck Firmalan explained. “He’s going to be the one owning this restaurant.”
Filipino cuisine hasn’t had a strong foothold in Columbus but it certainly has more of a presence with the openings of Kuya and Bonifacio on King Avenue in Columbus. Filipino savory dishes also are available at Red Velvet Cafe in downtown Columbus.
“It’s a cross between Spanish and Malaysian food,” Roebuck Firmalan said. “You can have it spicy, but it’s on request.”
For now, Kuya serves no alcohol, but the brothers wouldn’t rule out applying for a liquor license in the future.
Hour of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 614-948-3333.
The Indian dining scene in and around Polaris has seen some changes recently, with more in store.
Godavari, specializing in southern Indian cuisine, has replaced Cumin Indian Restaurant at 1025 Polaris Parkway, with access off Gemini Parkway.
Part of a national chain, Godavari has an extensive menu of vegetarian and meat dishes. Among them are dosas, Indian-style crepes; biryanis, or rice dishes; tandoori, referring to items cooked in the tandoor oven; and Indochinese specialties.
The spacious interior, which seats 120, has been remodeled. The restaurant still has a full liquor license.
The weekday lunch buffet ($10.99) has 30 to 35 items, while the weekend lunch buffet ($13.95) has 40 to 45 items, including dosas cooked on demand and a chaat station for Indian street snacks.
A la carte dining is available at night.
Meanwhile, a tandem restaurant-grocery store is expanding to Polaris.
Apna Bazaar and Tandoori Express, an offshoot of a similar operation on Bethel Road, are taking over a part of a strip mall on Sancus Boulevard just north of Lazelle Road.
Apna Bazaar, which specializes in groceries and fresh halal meats, has opened at 8635 Sancus Blvd.
Tandoori Express, which will be next door at 8631 Sancus Blvd., will be a fast-casual restaurant focusing on dishes cooked in the tandoor oven, co-owner Ubaid Pathan said.
It is expected to open by mid-August, Pathan said. It will be a more laid-back version of the Tandoori Grill on Bethel Road, which is a full-service restaurant also connected to an Apna Bazaar.
The Original Pancake House is up and running at 1633 W. Lane Ave. in Upper Arlington’s Shops at Lane Avenue.
The franchised restaurant, part of a Portland-based chain, takes over 4,600 square feet that once had been three storefronts.