Can’t face that same old burger place again? Does risking another parking ticket so you can wait in a dreary cafeteria-style line for a 900-calorie burrito leave you shy of high-fiving nearby diners? Might you settle for a processed, unfrosted and odd-tasting cryo-meal just to get on with your day? Would you rather stay at the office and drink way too much afternoon coffee than tackle another greasy box of General Toejam’s fried chicken bits with shriveled broccoli? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you my friend are suffering from a case of Lunch Crunch, aka Midday Meal Restaurant Rotation Burnout.
I’m sure you’re familiar with this debilitating syndrome. It affects honest everyday people who are tired of frequenting their three to five go-to lunch spots yet not up for munching on leftovers, cooking something fresh, parting with dinnertime money or enduring a bunch of parking hassles just to get a quick, unfussy and decent noontime meal.
If you work or live near Upper Arlington, the nifty Royal Ginger can cure this accursed ailment. Located in a mall with plenty of free parking, this swanky-looking, pan-Asian place sells lunch specials (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) seven days a week that are healthy, generously sized, affordable (two courses for $7-$8) and rise far above your typical take-out fare.
Royal Ginger offers worthy sushi and noodle specials, but my favorites are listed under “Asian Entrees.” There, after picking a starter (seaweedy and not overly salty miso soup; or shiitake, tofu and sesame-oil-splashed hot and sour soup; or a little salad distinguished by mango and jicama sticks plus a gingery, semi-bitter, pulpy and fruity dressing), you’ll match proteins with (not drastically different but lively) stir fry sauces plus a rice style (I appreciate and choose the brown option). Here are a few examples:
• Broccoli Soya Sauce with Shrimp: Impressively large and clean-tasting shrimp tossed in a light soy-based sauce with seared sweet red pepper strips and a wealth of broccoli florets. Characteristic of all of Royal Ginger’s high-heat stir-fries, it has a pleasant smokiness about it.
• Royal Ginger Peppercorn Sauce with Tofu: A mini smorgasbord of colorful al dente chopped vegetables (green beans, asparagus, jicama, red peppers, mushrooms and sweet onions) were united to wedges of fried tofu through a dark, sweet and thick glaze with a mild yet cumulative spiciness
• X.O. Sauce with combo: Meaty slices of Chinese BBQ-style roast pork and chicken plus smallish shrimp played nice with a lotta sugar snap pea pods, asparagus, sweet red peppers, caramelized onions and a spicy soy-based sauce with a pleasant whiff of sea creature to it.