"And he didn't get to finish his lunch," said our waiter, Phillip, the night when Patrick and I ate at Domo. He pointed at Patrick. "In fact, he was sitting right where you are now."
"I know," Patrick said. "I saw the news report on TV. The cameraman even focused on this table, and the robber's lunch was still there, uneaten."
After Phillip left us to ponder the menu, Patrick whispered, "The robber was an idiot, but I think the story gives this restaurant a certain cachet."
Well, it definitely gives the back booth a minor connection with celebrity. The Savoy Grill has its Harry Truman booth; Domo has the Burglar Banquette, with delicate little origami birds floating overhead. It's even slightly hidden from the rest of the tables in the pretty little dining room, for patrons who prefer not to stand out.
Domo Sushi & Grill has been open since last August. Over the past eight months, I've passed it dozens of times on my way to the supermarket across the street. Often, I've peeked into the storefront windows, but they reveal nothing. One has to actually sit in the dining room, or at the sushi bar, to appreciate the cool, fresh beauty of designer Keith Mueller's interior — wasabi-green walls, light fixtures that look like floating ice cubes, an ivory tile floor. It's a long, narrow room that soothes with soft colors, classical music and gorgeous arrangements of fresh flowers.
My friend Carmen, who calls Domo her neighborhood sushi hangout, piqued my interest in the place by calling it "the sushi restaurant that has many other things besides sushi." And many things besides tempura, which is often the only alternative to sushi at many Japanese restaurants. "Don't let the word grill frighten you off, either," she added, referring to my well-documented impatience with teppan-yaki steakhouses. "No one sits around a grill and watches a guy in a white jacket make stale jokes."
That was all I needed to hear. A couple of nights later, I was sitting in the semi-notorious back booth poring over the menu with Patrick, who had already decided that he didn't want sushi. After we each finished off a spring roll stuffed with shrimp and rice noodles, Patrick settled on the coconut-basil shrimp. For me, that immediately conjured up a vision of fried shrimp encased in coconut and chopped basil. "No," he corrected me, "I think it's more like a shrimp soup."
It's actually a rich concoction of slightly sweet coconut-cream broth, with slivers of red and orange peppers and pink shrimp floating amid plump udon noodles. "It's so light, yet so rich," Patrick raved while I waited, patiently, for 20 minutes until my sushi sampler arrived. The artful presentation of six fat slices of a tuna maki roll and three pieces of nigiri was almost worth the wait.
Because Patrick was smacking his lips after every bite of his meal, though, my sampler seemed underwhelming by comparison. Maybe I should have been more adventurous in ordering from the vast array of sushi available here; despite its artful presentation, my platter of tuna, salmon and mackerel just wasn't that exciting.
When I returned for dinner with Carmen and her boyfriend, Brandon, and the sushi-loathing Franklin, I made sure we'd have the chance to taste a more scintillating selection. "Brandon loves sushi," Carmen said, so we put him in charge of that particular menu. Franklin, meanwhile, noted that the nonsushi menu included organic, locally raised filet mignon and Kansas City strip. "Who would have thought this place would have steaks?" he said.
"It's Brookside, darling," Carmen answered as she unwrapped a hot, citrus-scented oshibori napkin and rubbed it in her hands. "I love details like this."
I loved the thick slices of eggplant and sweet potato sheathed in feather-light tempura that we shared as an appetizer. Less so, the heap of fried tatsutage, which the menu described as ginger fried chicken. It wasn't very gingery. "Chicken McNuggets," Carmen sniffed, pushing the plate away. We also shared the pancake-style okonomi that's similar, but not nearly as good as the more hefty version I had recently at the One Bite Japanese Grill in Overland Park ("One is not Enough," April 5).
Our moods brightened with the appearance of Brandon's spectacular sushi order: a platter of pale-pink tuna tataki and a delectable samurai roll with a center of spicy scallop salad, cucumber and avocado. We nibbled on these as our dinners arrived slowly, one by one, from the kitchen. Carmen's yoshi bowl was Domo's spin on a traditional Vietnamese bun, with flat rice noodles instead of vermicelli. The dish was crowded with grilled pork, herbs and fried spring rolls, and arrived with a little bowl of nuoc cham fish sauce to pour over the mixture. She proclaimed it to be "a nice, light, summery dish."
Franklin was initially stunned by the fiery heat of the spicy (and pricey) Korean-style Domo BBQ — thin, grilled marinated beef slices for wrapping in a cool lettuce leaf and dipping in an even hotter chile sauce. I shared my excellent bowl of green curry with Brandon, who agreed that the mild-looking jade-colored broth packed a deceptively potent punch. After a few bites, I was reaching for my glass of water. But it was too good not to eat.
Mercifully, desserts are intended to cool the palate. But the chilled coconut mochi was MIA on both of my visits. Same for most of the petite layered mousse cakes, which apparently come in a bounty of flavors, including cappuccino and chocolate. On my first visit, Domo had only mango and lemon; later, with Carmen and company, there was just lemon.
These candy-sprinkled mousse cakes are dainty, delicious little bakery-made delicacies, lighter and slightly more elegant than a Little Debbie Snack Cake — but not much more. A combination of fried bananas in spring-roll wrappers served with scoops of green-tea and chocolate ice cream had a childlike appeal but didn't capture my fancy. Franklin's wedge of chocolate mousse cake looked delicious, but he refused to share a bite of it.
"I ordered it, and it's mine," he said, gloating.
Why did I feel as if I'd been robbed?