Café International Introduces Global Gastro Café
Café International is a restaurant constantly in flux – in the best possible ways. It’s the latest project from Nick Von Ahsen and Kye Pimparatana, the owners of Best of the Wurst situated in the North Market, and it’s one they’re navigating with care for the customer and attention to detail.
Café International stands at the former site of the Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant, 2361 North High Street. Von Ahsen and Pimparatana took over the reins from Mequanent and Meaza Berihun in March, with the idea that they would still serve some of the traditional Ethiopian fare Pimparatana, the cook of the team, learned from her predecessors.
The couple, who’ve been together for eight years, and have traveled extensively in their quest to discover new and enticing flavors, created Café International to be a tapas joint, the kind of place that individuals, or groups, could come into and experience several cultures in one trip through small plates of food.
So, they kept the Minchetabesh, prime beef slow-simmered in keywat sauce, and the Mesir Wat, red lentils seasoned with Ethiopia’s signature berbere spice and served with injera. They added several Thai dishes native to Pimparatana’s Bankok upbringing, as well as a few other Asian-inspired plates with which customers would be familiar.
The Wonton Soup is an absolutely superb version of the Chinese classic. The broth is clear, as it should be, and packed with so much flavor you almost don’t need the wontons. But the pillowy dumplings aren’t to be missed, as they are light but filled with wonderful pork and shrimp flavors.
The Chives Cake are incredible. Café International is the only place in the city to get these crispy, savory rice delicacies, and it’s worth a visit just for this item. But while you’re there, don’t pass up the Korean BBQ Bulgogi with Spicy Grilled Pork. The flavor is slightly sweet, with an appealing spiciness that’s hard to resist.
Of course, Café International is also a café in the strictest sense in that they serve coffee, coffee-based drinks, and teas all day long. Diners can enjoy hot Ethiopian spiced teas, as well as loose leaf teas by the pot, espresso drinks, iced teas, and specialty drinks, like the Black Sesame Steamer.
Café International also has a fully-stocked bar from which customers can order. House cocktails like Jamie’s Mulled Cider, site-spiced apple cider coupled with the drinker’s choice of Jameson or Wild Turkey American Honey, or truly fantastic, homemade Ginger Beer kicked up with the addition of Meyer’s Dark Rum, are ideal picks for the season.
A Global Gastro Café is not necessarily the easiest concept to sell. But Pimparatana’s skill in the kitchen is quite deft, and she pays special mind to ensure that every plate of food that leaves her kitchen is good enough to serve her own family.
Favorites like Tofu Pad Thai and Chicken Green Curry can be ordered at virtually any Thai restaurant in the city, but few of them pull these dishes off with the finesse, restraint, and refinement Pimparatana displays. Her almost-obsessive attention to perfection is inspiring, and it shows in the food she and her partner serve.
“Asian food is where my heart is, it’s what I know, what I love, and what I can make,” shares Pimparatana on the choice to go global. “But we wanted to offer a comfortable menu, and make things easily accessible for the customer. The most important thing is understanding the food, which is something I’m always doing because I love food, all food, and I want to share that love.”
Café International is open Tuesday-Saturday, 3pm – 2am, and Sunday, 10am – 9pm. The 70-seat restaurant regularly updates its menu (it’s currently on the 9th version) as customer desire and reaction dictates, in part, new menu items, as well as daily specials.
To stay in the loop, and for more on events at Café International, like Board Game Night, follow them at www.facebook.com/CafeInternationalOhio.
Photos by Craig Ferance.