Restaurant Review: Ampersand Asian Supper Club
Ampersand Asian Supper Club brings Ramen to the Short North. It got off to a controversial start with offerings that were arguably on the pricey side. Of course, the establishment is stationed in THE Short North, a place where $15 burgers are ubiquitous. You can’t blame a restaurant for listing a more refined entree at an equitable price point.
A few menu adjustments, and the fuss has died down. Ampersand has settled into the neighborhood as a nice place to try out some Japanese-influenced fare. It blends a lot of divergent sensibilities together. It’s a self-billed supper club with a cool vibe, but it also sports an opportunity to order at the counter. Its aesthetic sensibilities are blended too. You’ll see some sleek, modern lines in the decor, but also a wall that features a geometrical puzzle of framed classical western artwork.
Given the initial money-fuss, let’s start budget-style with some Nori Fries ($5). An order offers a significantly sized batch of fries that have been finished with an attentive, crowning Nori accent. Nori is always going to be fishy, so its contribution earned a distinctly mixed reaction at the table. The companion sauce, though, with ample sesame presence, has a magic worth experiencing, and certainly worthy of french-fry-dipping. Plus, the sauce drowns out any sneaky fishy flavors.
There’s a serious soup/noodle collection of options on the menu. Ramen is one of the few items in this world that is perfect in any weather. In the summer, it seems light and whimsical. In the winter, it can come across as a comforting vehicle with its warmth and noodles. The Miso version ($16) offers an inherently savory broth, pleasantly salty, with enough depth and complexity to compel repeat hits. The ramen is populated with informal sections of roasted corn, kimchi, rock shrimp, perfectly wilted baby bok choy that sits at a twilight with a firm stem and soft greens, plus an egg that sits in that same twilight space with a firm white and silky, golden yolk.
Alternately, the menu sports rice bowls too, consider the Salmon Rice Bowl ($16). Its thinly sliced salmon is actually not the star of the dish. Much like the ramen, the offering is the sum of its many divergent parts, offered in balanced piles. There’s plenty of culinary entertainment value with crisp cucumber, soothing avocado, both corn and tomato with roasted accents. A vinaigrette ties the elements together, but it’s a light touch that also allow the natural flavors to shine through.
Ampersand, remember, is a supper club, so there’s an option to round things out with a serious cocktail. While the complimentary house green tea is a possible pairing, the bar menu also features on-theme beverages such as a Kyoto Warrior ($11), which teams Kyoto Gin with matcha, plus brash additions that include wasabi and habanero-infused Dolin’s Blanc. There’s a cute Mocktail creation too ($8), built on a Sprite base that’s laced with with cucumber, pineapple, curry and cinnamon to give it a fresh and sweet, exotic flair.
You can find it at 940 N. High St.
For more information, follow Ampersand’s Facebook Page.
All photos by Susan Post