Restaurant Review: Restaurant Tora

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If you were to order something different every day from the insanely huge menu at Restaurant Tora, it would take nearly half a year to sample everything. Given this place's attractively plated dishes and generally engaging food, that might be something worth trying.

Situated in Gahanna, Tora's initially overwhelming, dictionary-sized menu mostly concentrates on Japanese cuisine, though there's also plenty of Korean-inflected dishes plus steaks and even chicken farfalle.

Aiding prospective diners paging through that stunning food document are tons of pretty color photos depicting menu highlights. Fortunately, highlights were not in short supply.

I might have guessed that based on Tora's high-stylish setting. Its mix of handsome blond wooden slats, beautiful mosaic stone patterns, crisp white paint and origami-like lighting fixtures displayed the kind of attention to detail that, in restaurants, can often be reflected in the food.

This was the case with the Tuna and Avocado Salad ($10). Filling a cabbage leaf "bowl" were large, glimmering, sashimi-grade raw tuna chunks, creamy avocado cubes, wispy thin red onion threads and small slices of asparagus for crunch. Dressed in a light and citrusy soy-based "wasabi and yuzu sauce," it was a fresh and refreshing nosh.

Tuna was showcased drastically differently, but still effectively, in the Spicy Tuna Sashimi Tempura appetizer ($8). A puffy and crunchy batter containing creamily chopped tuna with a lingering heat - and a minty shiso leaf - was doused in a citrusy and sweet teriyaki sauce. Nice.

From the voluminous sushi list, the In & Out Roll ($13) was one of those raw-and-cooked, double-decker, bell-and-whistle-equipped specials so popular these days - but I thought it mostly worked. Glistening green tobiko was spackled to thin sheets of fake crab with spicy mayo and then came slabs of good tuna sushi. That all capped an inverted rice-on-the-outside roll of nori splashed with soy sauce and holding cucumber and barbecued eel bits. If that sounds hard to visualize, it was easy to eat.

As was a vat of dark, spicy, woodsy and smoky broth filled with ramen noodles tricked out with expertly trimmed slivers of pork and scallion (Spicy Negi Ramen soup, $12). Adding richness to the satisfying meal -make that two or three meals - was sesame oil.

The Korean-style Angry Chicken ($14) was indeed red-hot and mad. And it only seemed to get meaner with every bite. But I liked that non-run-of-the-mill stir fry composed with chopped boneless leg meat, carrots, peppers and onions.

As for the smallish Ground Short Rib burgers ($19), well, they weren't bad - two grilled sweet and oniony patties partnered with unadorned steamed broccoli and asparagus -but they weren't worth the price tag.

Still, they - along with a nondescript Steamed Spinach app ($3) - seemed to be the exception to Tora's rule. Because overall, the menu items I tried arrived prettily presented, showed off very fine knife skills and were fun to munch on. I'll have to get back to you in about five months to report on the rest of the menu.

To read G.A. Benton's blog, visit

Restaurant Tora

1330 N. Hamilton Rd., Gahanna



Price: $$$ ($20-$40 per person)

Cuisine: Japanese & Sushi

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday lunch, 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday, 12-11 p.m. Saturday, 12-9 p.m. Sunday