With a strip-mall locale within Sloopy-screaming distance of Ohio Stadium and a rinky-dink bamboo setup outside, you might think Sushi Ting is some kind of tiki bar. But step inside and its sleek wooden floor, tastefully decorated crisp white walls and overall serene atmosphere will likely recall a modern art gallery. That second observation would be more on target - only at Sushi Ting, the art is on plates.
Pleasant, relaxing and with an elegant simplicity, Sushi Ting is a sushi-bar-equipped Japanese restaurant just west of the OSU district. As such, it functions as a sort of grown-up and low-key oasis near the heart of tumult.
But that doesn't mean it's at all stodgy. In fact, lots of sworn-to-casual university types - both students and teachers - seem to frequent it. They obviously know a good thing when they see and eat it. And they clearly appreciate this nicely priced, friendly and very solid neighborhood sushi-oriented restaurant.
In Sushi Ting's smart setting, which features the Japanese characters for harmony, happiness and tranquility, you'll be handed a less-than-tranquil series of overloaded menus teeming with a dizzying array of items. Do not panic. Take your time and proceed slowly - you really can't go too wrong. Here's a few tips.
Soupwise, the semi-brilliant addition of minor botanical heat made the spicy miso ($2.50) much more interesting than the usual non-spicy variety. Even better was the graceful Clam Soup ($5). An oniony, perfumy clear broth topped with floating scallion shards filled a big bowl anchored by about a half-dozen good white shell clams.
If when considering Japanese cuisine, salads don't immediately pop to mind, Sushi Ting might change that. The House ($3) was simple but enlivening, with a top-notch version of the de rigueur Japanese-restaurant-style dressing.
The semisweet, sesame-seed sprinkled Seaweed Salad ($3) was also winning and healthy, but the Seafood Sunomono ($6) really stood out. Colorful, light and refreshing, it paired a variety of very fresh sashimi-style fish (like sweet shrimp, octopus and eel) with lively sweet, vinegared paper-thin cucumber discs.
The humble cucumber was again promoted to main player in the large Rainbow Naruto appetizer ($10). A sort of riceless sushi, it nimbly used long strips of cucumber to wrap around dabs of tuna, bits of crabstick, whitefish and avocado to form crunchy and eye-catching pinwheels.
Even more dramatic was the texturally engaging Mt. Fuji appetizer ($7). A model of the famous dormant volcano was built with almost creamy chopped raw spicy tuna (with the texture of steak tartar), cucumber rolls and a "snow covering" of fried crunchy bits. Loved it.
The explosively rich and delicious Lobster Dynamite appetizer ($10) was a clever casserole in which seared, crunchy strands of lowly cabbage were elevated in status by the company they kept. Broiled bits of lobster meat (about a claw's worth) and lots of texturally similar shiitake mushrooms flavored the healthy veggies, and the whole dish was detonated by a rich and creamy, tangy, mushroom-soup-like "spicy mayo" sauce.
With its vibrant mixed tints and short square serving bowl, my order of Chirashi ($15) resembled a flat of starter flowers. But it was a sampler box of fresh-tasting sashimi (with lots of silky ribbons of lovely salmon, BBQ eel, nicely cooked octopus, so-so dark tuna, inviting hamachi, smooth flounder, crabstick and more) sprouting up from a bed of accomplished sushi rice.
If Sushi Ting's verbose menu seems overwhelming, I recommend trying a bit-of-this/bit-of-that dinner box, which comes with rice (brown available) and soup or salad ($15). I especially liked the Yakiniki Bento, which starred thin slices of chewy and gingery beef with grilled onions.
But whatever large and colorful box you choose, it will have compartments filled with goodies like takoyaki (wonderful fried squid balls), tempura (lots of it, only a tad oily), crunchy potato croquettes, oniony spring rolls, seaweed salad, sushi, sashimi, sliced fresh fruit and more.
Those boxes, like most of Sushi Ting's stuff that I tried, were as good to look at as they were to eat.