Restaurant Review: Hiro Ramen – Columbus Underground

In terms of interesting service models, conveyor belts have been an official trend for quite a while. Like a buffet that comes to you, the service model leveraged a conveyor belt next to the table to move goods past diners, tempting guests with impulsive engagements.

But innovation in the world of restaurant automation goes far beyond the conveyor belt. We have entered the era of robots.

Of course, we have entered the age temporarily. Hiro Ramen on Bethel has been ordering with robots since the beginning of this year. And our robot masters don’t look much like the models of robots predicted for the future in the 1950s. They’re not humanoid things with walking legs. No, robots have wheels. They look more like small anthropomorphized, oversized, remote-controlled cars. Or maybe like a large pre-programmed Roomba.

Hiro’s robots have wheels and glowing blue eyes, and what makes the eyes non-scary is that they blink. Little touches like this make robot lords more fun than hunch. Customers place orders with a QR code, and soon enough the robot rolls, almost happily, to the table, and diners transfer their food from its sturdy serving rack to the table. Very easy.

About Ramen. It’s competent. Available in a variety of variants, the Tonkotsu ($13) makes a classic start. Based in a broth rendered from pork bones, it’s aggressively flavorful in a way that isn’t subtle, but strikes a low-end craving. Overall, the order makes for a great bowl of fun: heavy noodle curls, pork, chewy mushrooms, an egg, wilted bok choy, and pops of corn and scallions.

Tonkotsu Ramen

If soup seems too much for hot summer days, there are plenty of non-soup rice and noodle options as well. That same kind of elemental fun found in ramen offerings can be noted in something about the lines of a bowl. The Grilled chicken The version ($11) offers perfectly sticky rice as the base for a delicious medley of seaweed salad, with lightly marinated cucumbers and carrots, plus hearty chicken that’s been a bit processed, but not to the point of nuggets. The processing is more to the point of giving it a healthy dose of seasoning.

Grilled chicken bowl

For plant-based meals, there are tofu options. Example: the Tofu Curry Bowl ($11) replaces the chicken element in the aforementioned bowl, with tofu sporting a crispy fried finish and a pleasant coconut curry sauce.

Tofu Curry Bowl

It’s hard to give up any opportunity to score cheese fries. Even when they seem like a conceptual mismatch. Here the Cheesy Pork Belly Fries ($9) await: classic fries with a burst cheese sauce, crispy pork belly, and the added (themed) appeal of okonomiyaki sauce and spicy mayo. No excuses.

Cheesy Pork Belly Fries

Of course, you can explore more themed appetizers, like tempura shrimp or gyoza dumplings. And there are also robust fruit and milk tea scenes. Hiro also hosts a transport operation, although that doesn’t appear to include any robots, and it would be a real shame to miss out on the fun.

It all resides in the shell of an old Burger King at 4800 Sawmill Rd.

For more information, visit hiroramentea.com.

All photos by Susan Post

Not only does the robot blink, it talks!
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