Jasmine Fusion Grill brings the heat to the Brewery District
Located upstairs from an ax-throwing business, this relative newcomer doesn’t skimp on the spice in its Indian fusion food
Passing by the open door of an expansive, vintage-brick dive bar in the Brewery District recently, I encountered a group of whooping-it-up women, one of whom suddenly launched an ax across the room.
The hurtling hatchet traveled to its wooden target through air animated by the perfume of curry seasonings and the woozy-sounding strains of the Led Zeppelin classic “Kashmir.” Afterward, the heaver of the cleaver performed a little dance.
“Guess we’re in the right place,” I said to my visibly bemused companion as we began to trudge up a steep stairwell to Jasmine Fusion Grill, where we fetched the submarine sandwich loaded with chicken tikka and the dish of ricotta-filled ravioli drenched in curried spinach sauce that we’d ordered.
“Gotta love Columbus” I muttered as we approached the pickup counter at the unassuming, relatively new eatery.
Sharing a space with Columbus Axe Throwing — a lumberjack play-acting entertainment establishment and tavern — Jasmine Fusion Grill is essentially two counters in front of a busy kitchen situated in a small, brick-walled upstairs room with rustic wood, a couple of tables and safely partitioned ax-throwing lanes.
Largely because the owner-chef in charge of Jasmine’s one-man-band operation was Zulfiqar Ali — chef for eight years at excellent Tandoori Grill on Bethel Road — Jasmine evoked the adage about a book and its cover. Ali wasn’t quick to fill big orders (we waited upwards of 30 minutes on visits), but his skill and experience guaranteed that most of his eatery’s Pakistani- and Northern Indian-influenced fare, some of which is culturally hybridized bar food, was terrific. It was also generally quite spicy and nicely priced.
Those qualities were especially evident in an outstanding entree reminiscent of a Tandoori Grill showpiece, Jasmine’s lamb seekh kebab ($10): two succulent, seared, spicy, sausage-like logs served — as many main courses are — with fragrant basmati rice (or prefab fries) and a little salad dressed only with masala powder (even lettuce can be spicy here).
I also loved Jasmine’s mammoth smoke-scented chicken leg & thigh ($11) — two tandoori-chicken-style dark-meat quarter birds. My order of boneless beef tikka ($12) tasted great, too, but the meat was disappointingly chewy.
The shareably large curries I tried were addictive flavor-bombs enriched with immoderate doses of ghee. Among these, Jasmine’s distinct chana masala ($10) — chickpeas bathed in a peppery brown gravy redolent of cumin seeds and long-cooked onions — was less tomatoey than most local versions and relatively mild in its capsaicin content.
The chile level was cranked to high in the killer vegetable stew curry ($10) — green beans, carrots, potatoes, peppers, corn and more in a zesty base glistening with molten butter — and the fiery but nuanced and inspired cheese ravioli and palak sauce ($10).
The latter dish, which I alluded to earlier, is a triumphant example of Jasmine’s mashup-style offerings. Ditto for the aforementioned and highly recommended submarine sandwich, called a chicken tikka hoagie ($10), which was like Indian-accented fajitas with melted cheese in a soft-yet-firm bun.
The wonderful chapli burger ($10) might’ve been my favorite melting-pot amalgam here ($10): a tender, juicy and massive patty of boldly seasoned beef blended with minced onions and peppers presented like an American cheeseburger.
I wish Jasmine’s chicken 65 wings ($8) tasted more like the saucy and dynamic Indo-Chinese dish they’re named after, rather than just so-so heavily breaded poultry with a perky spice dusting. Instead, I suggest spending your dough on Jasmine’s nifty rose biscotti ($2) — delightfully crisp cookie-biscuits with rose-scented icing drizzles — and a palate-cooling mango lassi ($3).
That fruity yogurt-based beverage is even better with a shot of rum or tequila in it. Fortunately, you can purchase such add-ins from the downstairs bar — after you’ve finished with your ax throwing, of course.
Jasmine Fusion Grill
560 S. High St., Brewery District