Review: Meshikou restaurants offer hearty ramen, chicken dishes on winter days

G.A. Benton
Special to The Columbus Dispatch
Meshikou black, a dynamic umami-bomb with garlic and mushroom notes at Meshikou Ramen

With the calendar making its icy way to the end of February, few dishes will hit the restorative spot that hearty and delicious noodle soups can. Some of my favorite brothy winter warmers are served at Meshikou Ramen.

I’m not alone: The Japanese-style soups from this Bethel Centre shopping center stalwart have become so renowned around town that Meshikou has practically become synonymous with ramen in Columbus. But when locals hear “Meshikou,” another word should pop up, too: chicken. Or, umm, “chickin.”

Because not only did Meshikou switch from showcasing pork broth to chicken broth a few years ago, but the company also launched Meshikou Chickin, a fried chicken shop located next to its ramen restaurant.  

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Meshikou Chikin, which opened in November during the pandemic, is a to-go-only operation. Its soup-serving sibling still has dine-in service, but has responded to the “new abnormal” by shielding tables in shower-curtain-like plastic barriers and doing something the eatery previously eschewed: offering takeout ramen. As I recently discovered, both Meshikous are great choices for customers seeking terrific to-go meals. 

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Spicy K Pop wings from Meshikou Chikin

Meshikou Ramen pleases with textures and flavor

Meshikou Ramen smartly packs its broths and soup solids separately for takeout orders, which allows the delicate-yet-firm noodles to remain intact for an extended time. Simple reheating instructions and clearly labeled components are provided, too.

In addition to good noodles, most soups come with an on-point marinated and soft-boiled egg, substantial bamboo-shoot strips, wood ear mushrooms, scallions, amusingly chewy and visually pleasing fish cakes plus about three pieces of a chosen protein.

The proteins are all high-grade: fantastic pork belly (thinly sliced, succulent, not blocks of fat); lean-yet-flavorful pork tenderloin (tastes like good pork roast); plus appealingly marinated tofu blocks with pleasantly fried-to-crisp exteriors.  

The spicy chikin sandwich at Meshikou Chikin

Meshikou’s chicken-broth-based ramens are all outstanding, but I recommend starting with three of my favorites: shoyu paitan ($12), which stars a wonderful broth that’s almost like thinner Thanksgiving gravy; Meshikou black ($14), a dynamic umami-bomb with garlic and mushroom notes; and the intense fireball paitan, which isn’t fiery on its own but comes with a side of garlicky chili paste.

Cheap, well-prepared fried chicken offered at Meshikou Chicken

The offerings next door at Meshikou Chickin are far simpler: straightforward but skillfully cooked, good-tasting and enticingly inexpensive fried chicken with a crackly crust, plus a few poultry accoutrements.      

There, $7 buys a huge breast piece that leaks juice when sliced into, or boneless thighs — two are advertised, but I have received three meaty and delicious pieces on multiple occasions. For another buck, you can get six nice whole wings. Bonus: Prices entitle diners to the pre-applied and agreeable Paciific Dry Rub (think five-spice powder blended with salt and sugar) or, even better, a chosen DIY sauce.

Chicken breast meal with garlic bomb sauce and salad and rice at Meshikou Chikin

I was quite fond of the Meshikou garlic bomb sauce (recalls a soy-based vinaigrette), but I also liked the incendiary Sichuan nom nom (similar to a fat-based, Nashville-style hot chicken sauce) and the spicy K Pop (like sweet-and-spicy, gochujang-spiked barbecue sauce). If you prefer milder flavors, try the sweet-and-salty peppercorn teriyaki sauce.     

For $3 extra, you can supplement the fried chicken with the eatery’s two sides ($2.50 each a la carte): decent gingery rice and a passable salad notably improved by Meshikou’s refreshing ginger-citrus dressing, which resembles dressings from countless teppanyaki and sushi restaurants.

The hefty spicy Chikin sandwich ($8), which completes the small menu, is an excellent take on a trendy sandwich. With its puffy-and-sweet toasted brioche bun, slab of crackly thigh meat drenched in Sichuan nom nom sauce, acidic pickles and creamy-sweet house mayo made with sesame oil, it hits a lot of fun flavor and textural spots. And because the chile content in this delicious riff on a Nashville hot chicken sandwich is enough to cause your face to flush, it's a timely winter warmer, too.   

At a glance

Where: Meshikou Chikin/Meshikou Ramen

Location: 1504 Bethel Road, Northwest Side

Contact: 614-929-5539,