Rishi gives Asian a twist

Denise Trowbridge, For The Columbus Dispatch

May 6, 2014

David Kim is trying to make Asian food exciting again. His new restaurant, Rishi Sushi Kitchen & Bar, opened this year at 114 N. 3rd. St.

"Asian cuisine needed a little twist and tweak to bring some excitement back to the theme," said Kim, who co-owns the restaurant with his dad, Song, and other partners.

"We're trying to break down barriers to get people introduced to the whole philosophy of Asian food. It is more than fried rice, lo mein and raw fish."

Rishi's menu features hamburgers, sushi, ramen bowls and tapas, with contemporary flavors and combinations, such as wasabi truffle ketchup and edamame hummus.

"We wanted to change people's perception of Asian food. We don't want people to only think of it as raw food or $9.95 General Tso's chicken," Kim said.

The menu sprang from Kim's love of food.

"I like to eat good food and try new cuisines. There are two ways to go about this kind of restaurant. One way is to be really authentic and follow the traditional way of eating. The other way is take those ideas, twist and tweak them just so it gives a little oomph and creativity in it, without taking too much away from the culture."

Kim chose the second option, while still "respecting the roots of the dish."

Rishi is in the former Fleur space, on the ground floor of the Exchange Urban Lofts building. The space received a complete overhaul.

Fleur had no kitchen, Kim said, so he kept the upstairs mezzanine but gutted the rest of the space. Kim added a kitchen and restrooms and revamped the floor plan to maximize the space.

Now, the wall of windows floods light over dark wood floors, natural-wood bars and tabletops, and bright green and orange walls. The restaurant seats about 85 inside and 40 on the patio.

"Design-wise, I just had an idea to create a fun atmosphere, so I tried to incorporate fun and happy and vibrant and exciting (colors), but keep it warm and welcoming," he said.

Kim hopes that Rishi will start a transformation of 3rd Street, from drive-by to destination.

"With all of the residential nearby, this could be the heart of Downtown," he said. He hopes that other bars, cafes and restaurants open nearby to create a hub similar in style to Gay Street.

"I used to feel Downtown was not the greatest place to open a restaurant, but there has been a lot of development in the past few years. Downtown is becoming a vibrant residential and interactive neighborhood, with parks and a lot of events."

"We want to contribute by having and giving people a reason to stay and support the Downtown and bring life into the city."

Rishi's kitchen is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; it is closed on Sunday. The bar is open an hour later each night.

Off the menu

• Otani Japanese Restaurant is scheduled to close tonight after dinner. The restaurant at 5900 Roche Dr., on the North Side, has faced financial difficulties. Rick Honda, son of the owner, posted a notice on the restaurant's Facebook page yesterday about its closing.

• Freshbox Cafe opened yesterday at 125 E. Broad St., in the lower level of Trinity Episcopal Church. The cafe will be open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Freshbox Cafe is part of Freshbox Catering. Both are operated by Lutheran Social Services as social-purpose businesses providing job experience and training to those in need.

• Yats Cajun Creole is expanding into Columbus. The Indiana-based restaurant is a quick-service, Chipotle-style restaurant serving New Orleans-style Cajun food. It has 10 locations in Indiana and one in Cincinnati. It plans to open its first in central Ohio at 1386 Grandview Ave., in the former Orange Leaf. No opening date has been set, but construction is expected to be completed in late May.

• Houlihan's has rolled out a new menu featuring organic produce at its Upper Arlington restaurant. It now serves only certified organic greens such as iceberg, romaine, kale, spinach, arugula, chard and baby greens in all its dishes. Houlihan's is testing the new organic menu in Columbus before potentially expanding it to its 81 other locations nationwide.

Dispatch restaurant columnist Denise Trowbridge can be reached at onrestaurants@dispatch.com.