The other night, however, thanks to family that is in town, my wife and I finally were able to leave the house without our babies in order to dine in a restaurant like we used to so many months-that-seem-like-years-ago. And of all the myriad options we had before us in Denver's continually burgeoning restaurant world, we chose one that has years and years on the scene yet still manages to be one of Denver's most unique, romantic and inspiring eating experiences: Domo.
Just the fact that we chose Domo for our first date in six months should tell you how fond I am of the place, and most of you reading this post are probably quite familiar with this Japanese-Denver institution. For those of you that are not, Domo is the definition of a hidden gem. Sandwiched between a construction company and an empty lot just south of Colfax, and across the street from DHA housing, crossing the threshold of Domo one very literally enters a completely different world. While the outside has touches of Japanese decor, the mostly non-descript square white building and gravel lot is in stark contrast to the wonderfully warm, intimate and traditionally decorated Japanese interior.
Domo is not only a restaurant serving incredible country-style Japanese cuisine, but it is also houses a small museum, an Aikido dojo and a Japanese garden. Every square inch of the place, from the thatched ceilings, to the slab tables to the pristine garden is carefully decorated and meticulously cared for.
Most of you likely know a lot about Domo, so I won't say much more except that if you don't know Domo then I hope you decide to go sometime soon. Otherwise let me share some more photos and tell you a little about what we ate. Enjoy.
We started out with a small plate of gyoza. These garlic-laden steamed-then-pan-fried dumplings were certainly not the star of the night, but they were a good way to line my stomach with some booze-absorbing starch for my potent tea-based cocktails.
We then chose an assortment of Wanko Sushi, named for the small plates they are served on (and then Trademarked which is pretty silly I must admit) according to the Domo website . They have ten different kinds of fish and the selection as far as I can tell never changes.
The sushi is served sliced over rice and with the sauce or "topping" of your choice. You are then given clear and direct instructions as to how you are expected to eat said sushi: pick up the bowl, scoop in mouth and don't even think about adding any soy sauce (which you won't find on your table anyway).
Of course, being told how to eat your food is usually always a good sign, and for even more information
on Western society's overuse of soy sauce (which I liken to our overuse of ketchup) you can explore Domo's website to see just how deep the passion of anti-soy-sauce-excess runs.
Of all the pieces we ordered, my absolute favorite was the Ika (squid) covered in smelt roe. The bright orange roe copiously covered the delectable slices of squid. The intense flavors were just what we were craving in our first sushi meal since my wife was pregnant over a year ago.
Also a close second was the Unagi (freshwater eel) covered with chopped avocado.
The rest of the sushi was of course good as well: a simple Maguro and Saba along with a beautifully steamed surf clam with grated ginger.
We also picked at a large plate of teriyaki with grilled calamari, scallops and shrimp tempura. It was simple and delicately seasoned so that the subtle notes of the scallop and calamari were not lost. The tempura was perfectly battered and fried--crisp, light and wonderful.
And of course no night is complete at Domo without sampling the seven sides that are served to each table. Tonight there was everything from a light, cold bean salad and airy tempura vegetables to a more hearty pork stew and small meatballs.
Domo is a wonderful, reassuring constant in the ever-changing restaurant world. And with the latest trends of chefs trying there hardest to be seasonal and local (both good things no doubt) Domo is refreshingly non-seasonal and exotic. And despite the relatively stagnant menu, it continues to execute well, take great care in its ingredients, value the aesthetic of its presentation and simply be one of Denver's great restaurant experiences.
Domo doesn't take reservations so if you want to eat in their stunning, tranquil garden get there early or be prepared to wait. While you wait (you will almost definitely wait) you can see if you can verify what we first noticed this night after dining at Domo now regularly for years: All the female servers have name tags with names of flowers. (I haven't see a coincidence like that since the end of a long night at a bachelor party in Reno.) But however mildly creepy that is, there is nothing but good still coming from the Domo kitchen, and that is what matters in the end.