When asked what my favorite Korean restaurant in Columbus is, my answer has always been Diaspora. The nondescript eatery sits at the corner of Lane and High and, despite its prime location in the heart of the Ohio State University district, is easily overlooked. The dining room is filled with Korean students on any given night, which I have always taken to be a good sign.
Unlike many of the Korean restaurants in Columbus which specialize in the ubiquitous tableside Korean barbeque, Diaspora has a more contemporary feel and offers a broader scope of Korean fare. In addition to traditional items like bulgogi (marinated beef), bibimbap (a rice and vegetable bowl topped with meat and an egg), and kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew with pork belly and tofu), Diaspora has recently expanded their menu to include popular Korean dishes like jajangmyeon (noodles and vegetables in rich, black soybean sauce) and some pretty amazing Korean fried chicken.
Diaspora’s fried chicken is very reminiscent of the chicken we experienced in Korea. Slightly less crunchy than the chicken served at the chain restaurant Bonchon, Diaspora’s is more flavorful and comes either plain, with garlic, or drizzled in a sweet and spicy sauce. The sauce option is a bit sticky, but well worth the mess.
Diaspora serves a small, but well-representative offering of banchan (the communal side dishes which accompany Korean food). Similar to condiments on the American table, banchan is used to balance and enhance the meal. A bite of sour and spicy kimchi can take the edge off of rich and fatty pork; a bit of fish cake can boost the flavor of food much like a dash of salt. All banchan dishes are refillable upon request.
While Korean barbeque restaurants are ideal for large groups and special occasions, we’ve found Diaspora to be perfect for small group and individual casual dining. Unlike some of the other Korean restaurants in Columbus that I’ve always felt were fine examples of “Korean restaurants in America,” Diaspora has the feel of a restaurant one might find on the streets in Seoul. It’s modern decor and wide array of offerings create an inviting, accessible menu for those familiar with Korean cuisine as well as for people wanting to explore Korean food for the first time.