Coined as the first Handroll Bar in New York City and a beloved dining experience for seasoned dwellers, DOMODOMO is the pinnacle of Asian-inspired cuisine. Chef Brian Kim is a Culinary Institute of America graduate who is renowned for experimenting with the most organic of ingredients; as a non-Gucci bag-boasting customer, however, I was curious to see how one’s callowed experience compares to DOMODOMO’s revered reputation.
The Impression: It’s the kind of establishment the ordinary patron could deem their once-a-year special location… or designate their fixed abode. There’s no doubt that DOMODOMO is a millionaire’s dream, equipped with moving holographic images pinned on every wall, sushi bars hugging its wood-stained sides, and clean tables with sophisticated clienteles. However, the restaurant honors its regular customers. Upon my approximately twentieth visit (completely unrelated to my own review), however, I was granted a complimentary order of Korean Fried Chicken, one of DOMODOMO’s fan favorites. DOMODOMO is not to be confused with DOMODOMO Raw Bar, its sister restaurant physically right next door for which you cannot make a reservation. Although the Raw Bar serves smaller portions and sports a fresh fish bar, both restaurants share the same kitchen and therefore are equal in service and food quality.
The Service: Very polite, formal, and completely versed with the menu’s offerings, the wait staff at DOMODOMO expect their customers to order their fair share of sake (or their cocktail preference, of course) and be thoroughly seasoned with their own preferences. The benevolent team at the restaurant will give recommendations where recommendations are due, but for a reservation likely made weeks in advance, a glance or two at their top-notch menu before you arrive is surely expected. Per their reputation, they are extremely attentive; I’ve only ever had to probe my waitress for the check on one singular occasion, and I am convinced they simply thought I was going to order something else, as I often do.
The Prologue: Per a direct link from DOMODOMO’s website, I made a reservation exactly one week in advance for 6:30pm Thursday, August 13th 2020. Accompanying me were three of my dearest girlfriends who additionally frequent the restaurant, as well. As most avant-garde establishments do during the pandemic, the charming host at DOMODOMO greeted my party with a contactless thermometer and four seemingly clean menus; however, he also included an array of adorable mini hand wipes (which I considered extremely thoughtful and unique from other NYC restaurants). He directed us outside - of course - to a table under a vast awning next to a delicate flower display. So, never fear: if the weather doesn’t cooperate with your reservation time per typical Manhattan fashion, the lilies get a drink of water, and you and your handrolls are perfectly protected.
The Drinks: Although the cocktail menu might appear limited sporting only three options, DOMODOMO clearly values quality over quantity. For a refreshing, summer option, the watermelon cooler is surprisingly minty and rimmed with sugar crystals rather than salt. The peach sparkling sake, on the other hand, boasts the most interesting consistency: jelly, but smoother going down than the standard jelly cup… or shot, whatever form you are most accustomed to. My personal favorite option, however, is a large yet elegant glass of their Storypoint Cabernet; rich, bold, and a perfect contrast to DOMODOMO’s light handrolls.
The Food: Speaking of the restaurant’s famous handrolls, I never fail to order at minimum two pieces each visit. They’re delicious and completely un-filling, which although may be questionable as the restaurant’s most recognized food option, also can make the perfect appetizer so that one might save room for their entrée. The restaurant underwent a change in menu recently to emphasize handroll’s complexities; for example, the avocado rolls that before came only with rice and sesame are now accompanied with fresh beets and sweet potato shavings on top.
HOT TIP: Upon serving, the waiter should inform newcomers to eat the handroll as soon as possible to prevent the seaweed from getting soggy and tough. I waited once about five minutes to eat mine due to an engaging conversation, and it’s not an easy eat - trust me.
Now onto the main course. A customer might consider one of DOMODOMO’s set menus. Having tried the Signature Course myself, I would say that the food is delicious, but with portions too minuscule for a whopping price of $85. This option is also not for the faint of heart - if you’re a “I like seafood unless it tastes too fishy,” kind of eater, I would recommend choosing the Korean Fried Chicken or Rock Shrimp Tempura instead.
SARAH’S PERSONAL FAVORITES:
· Tobiko pasta - Don’t let the “fish eggs” in the menu description scare you off. This is one of the restaurant’s best dishes and an easy eat.
· Miso black cod - I’ve never eaten a dish so equally balanced as this, with its sweet, teriyaki-like flavor and easy, fluffy forkfuls.
· Garlic bacon fried rice w/ onsen egg - Instagram opportunity alert! The egg comes uncooked, but the bowl it comes in is so hot that it cooks itself upon stirring for approximately two minutes
· I’m not an ice cream connoisseur myself, but the matcha ice cream with white chocolate sauce never fails to impress those with even the savoriest of tastes.
Rating and Conclusion: 10/10. DOMODOMO has been my restaurant of choice for years, so I considered it a perfect topic for my first City Pulse article of substance. Although I can’t promise that I’ll be as versed in every restaurant, attraction, or event on which I report, I can assure you dear reader, that it is my life’s mission to explore every aspect that Manhattan has to offer.
Therefore, my unbiased opinion of DOMODOMO is a formal, elegant, solid restaurant to make a reservation for a birthday or an imperative work dinner; my opinion as one of their regular customers, however, is it’s one of the best establishments I’ve had the pleasure of dining in since I took up residence in the Big Apple. Perhaps my review on the next dining location won’t be so nice - I am certainly not one to give compliments where they are not due - but DOMODOMO’s praise is very well deserved, in my humble opinion.