Grant and I had the opportunity to visit Doraku together, but sadly at the last minute there was an emergency at home and only I could go. He missed out and we will surely have to return. I want his opinion on the octopus.
Doraku is the latest addition to the Aoki Group, with this location led by Chef Todd Kulper. He has worked at every Aoki location, but said that this one is now his home; he would travel to others, but come back here. The first thing I noticed on coming in was all the marvelous woodwork. There are panels used as space dividers made from sections of irregularly shaped wood that are just lovely, and the table we sat at was made from two absolutely huge chunks of wood thicker than my leg, overlooked by a Buddha face carved from a tangle of roots. Coming as I do from an island (Saint Simons) where tree spirit faces are carved in hidden places all over, it was almost like a touch of home.
The menu was designed to give us a broad taste of the menu, rather than to show exact plates of what would appear on a typical order – we were in for 9 courses! For instance, on the plate showing the deviled egg, salmon taco, eggplant miso, and cod Nanbanzuke, an actual order for one of the items would be for three of the salmon tacos (get them – they are lovely!) The carpaccio comes with 8 pieces instead of 4, and so forth (space out whatever you have with that particular dish if you order it, as you’ll want to let the flavors linger a bit).
I loved the crispy Brussels sprouts. My server said she encourages everyone to get them, and sometimes has customers order seconds, they’re that good. I just provide that as backup because readers of this blog know I love sprouts and might think I am inclined to exaggerate their virtues. My other two favorites were the truffled salmon and the grilled king crab sushi.
Nearly everything is made in house, even the time-intensive parts; the monkfish liver pate, for instance, is made in a 4 1/2 hour process, and they are very proud of it. The seafood comes from all over; our mussels were from Japan, the salmon was from the Faroe Islands, and the tuna was from Hawaii, etc. The sushi rice is from Japan. Chef Todd’s enthusiasm for his ingredients and process really came out in both his descriptions and the food. It’s clearly made with passion.
By the way, there’s a bonus. Next door is a sister business, Qing Mu Noodle Co. They share a back hallway and a unique style of woodwork, but Qing Mu is a takeout place with very reasonable prices. The night I went was really more of a comfort bowl of Ramen sort of evening, it having been being a rainy chilly lonely sort of day, and I was tempted severely since I arrived so early for the event! Good thing I didn’t, though, as there was so much to eat there could never possibly have been room to include that as well.
(As noted, this was a media event and our meal was complimentary. It’s our policy to always note when we’ve received our meal without charge. If you would like to invite us to your restaurant’s media events, please drop Grant a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
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