Restaurant Review: NeeHee’s
It’s never been a better time to be a vegetarian in Columbus. Or, to sync-up with the trendier terminology: it’s never been a better time to be “plant-centric.” Central Ohio is bustling with restaurants that issue forth creative cuisine that does not involve animals. And we’re not just talking about side dishes, afterthoughts and consolation prizes. Joints like Comune (vegetarian) and SŌW Plated (a plant-centered menu, but with meat options) occupy top slots on local dining lists. Instead of offering restricted menus, plant-centric joints are known for their creativity and menu diversity. The appeal of their offerings ends up being fairly universal.
There’s always been a handful of Indian vegetarian restaurants in town. NeeHee’s on Sawmill entered the marketplace last year, with its take on plant-based Indian cuisine. For NeeHee’s, that translates into a slick, shiny chain that’s been successful in Michigan and Illinois with its fast-casual dining approach. Unsurprisingly, the local reception has also been warm. NeeHee’s headliner is Indian Street Food, but it offers so much more.
And that “more” expands into an empire of plant-based burgers and Indo-Chinese options. We’ll get to that.
But, as street food is the headliner, it makes sense to start there with something on the lines of Bhel Puri ($5.99). It’s an intriguing textural mix of puffed rice, vermicelli, legumes and potatoes with brightness courtesy tamarind and cilantro-mint chutneys. Easy to love, there’s more comfort in the decidedly non-Western combo than you might expect.
Meanwhile, Papdi Chaat ($5.99) is built on a combination of papdi crackers (deep-fried for extra crunch), chickpeas, potatoes, the chutney and a creamy yogurt, plus vermicelli and cilantro on top. It’s a richer dish, demonstrating the contrast in flavors and textures when it comes to Indian Street food.
For something more familiar, NeeHee’s also offers up Samosas ($3.49). They’re large, fried and filled with a potato and pea mixture that is infused with mint and cilantro. For those accustomed to a mild, milquetoast, crunchy pocket, this is not it. The contribution of the herbal elements in the samosas is evident from the first bite. For better or worse, there’s a lot going on in the filling.
Looking outside NeeHee’s creative takes on Indian cuisine, you can also score a burger. In fact, you could spend some time on just the burger menu itself, with a variety of (mostly) potato-based options offered up inside buns. The Chutney Vada Pav ($4.99) makes a nice introduction to the genre: a seasoned potato croquette-like patty is served inside a pretty classic hamburger bun. If you’ve been looking for an exotic starch sandwich, NeeHee’s is here for you.
Venturing into the Indo-Chinese territory, something like Kung Pao Paneer ($10.99) is an interesting hybrid. Take the things you already like about Kung Pao: peanuts and burning heat. Add some cashews, then use paneer as the protein. In this role paneer isn’t totally unlike tofu, but it’s richer and softer. It adds a luxurious accent to a familiar favorite.
There is a lot to explore at NeeHee’s. The menu size is enough to cause full-on analysis paralysis. But take comfort in knowing that the price-points are low, and the kitchen seems to consistently deliver pretty good eats. You’re not taking a big risk with any choice, so give it a whirl.
NeeHee’s can be found at 6080 Sawmill Rd.
For more information, visit neehees.com.
All photos by Susan Post