26 E. 5th Ave., Columbus OH 43201 (near corner of 5th & High, next to Brother’s Drake)
Mobile food in Columbus seems to evolve in phases – first came the taco trucks, and more recently there’s been a boom in trucks serving some fine riffs on what would be considered ‘American’ food. Now, it seems, international cuisines are having their turn. With the opening of Ajumama (Korean), Aromaku (Indonesian), the as-of-yet unreviewed Empanada Joe’s (Colombian), and now Tokyo GoGo, the range of flavors that mobile food offers continues to grow.
From a business perspective, Tokyo GoGo seems especially well conceived. It’s found a set location in a well-trafficked area; tightly integrated with the bustling bar at Brother’s Drake Mead. In fact, with the ability to order their food inside at the bar, it seems to more or less operate as Brother’s Drake’s kitchen. Which is a beautiful thing, particularly during inclement weather. Furthering that connection, Tokyo GoGo’s menu primarily consists of Japanese style bar snacks, which, while traditionally eaten with beer (which Brother’s Drake does carry), we’ve found to also pair reasonably well with their meads.
But wait… Brother’s Drake… Short North… aren’t there already a ton of Japanese food options in the area?
There certainly are, but by and large, this is better – conspicuously handmade (nobody’s reheating frozen dumplings from the freezer) and conceived with a menu tailored to ingredients that can be found locally. So, no fish of questionable quality, and no 100+ item menus, just a tightly focused list of 11 well-executed dishes.
The first and foremost of which, for us, was the karaage. It’s simple enough – chunks of chicken thigh meat that have been lightly battered and flash fried – but the chicken is sublimely moist and flavorful, and the sauces, one of which reminded us of a Korean gochujang, are nothing short of brilliant.
Their gyoza, available with both pork and vegetable fillings, make for a pleasant surprise as the 6 dumplings that come to an order are arranged in a circle and grilled into a thin, flaky crepe. The accompanying photo (above) will elaborate on this intriguing arrangement better than words ever could, but the effect is that as each piece separates from the whole it brings along crispy, flaky bits that make for a pleasant textural counterpoint. Delicious.
The Japanese noodle soup – served with your choice of soba or udon noodles – is exactly what it should be; a great broth covering plenty of noodles, topped with veggies and the like. It’s a perfect winter-month bowl of comforting warmth.
Beyond that, we’ve tried the tempura vegetables, karokke (potato croquettes), hijiki (seaweed) salad, inari, and edamame. All were, at minimum, good, and most were better than.
We’ve enjoyed the bar at Brother’s Drake for some time, and with the addition of Tokyo GoGo, we can make an evening of it. We’d suggest that you do, too.