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The Great Escape

Domo transports you to a place you've never visited before. But you'll be back.

The restaurant is crowded, but my favorite seat is again open. The dining room's rough wood walls, its dim overhead lights with their rustic shades, the walls and shelves crowded with mementos of Japanese farm life, are comforting, close, insulating, and the garden outside the window is lit up for the night. I ask for water, tea, then order off chef Homma's wanko sushi menu.

Wanko sushi is not sushi by the American definition. There are no rolls, no nori, no fake crabmeat or wasabi. Wanko sushi is more like sashimi, except with a sauce or with ginger or with brutally hot mustard. It's like chirashi, except that each variety of fish is ordered individually and served individually in its own bowl, draped over country-style white rice speckled with barley. And it's excellent, a pure display of just two or three ingredients per bowl, carefully constructed, impeccably treated, as fresh and powerful as reaching into an aquarium and taking a bite out of a salmon. I have maguro with vinegar, bright and fatty and luxuriously purple, with a brunoise of ginger scattered over the rice, then yellowtail in mustard, then mackerel presented with the skin on, flank cut, and so dark and fishy that if I close my eyes, I can smell the ocean.

Then I want something different, something new, and order giant sea snail. It tastes like biting into the tongue of a new sneaker. It tastes like nothing, really; it's all texture, and the texture is unpleasant. It's hard to bite through, harder to chew. I eat as much as I can, then leave the rest, happy that I tried. Now I can say that I've eaten sea snail. Now I can say that sea snail is not for me.

Zen and the art of living deliciously: The courtyard at 
Domo.
Mark Manger
Zen and the art of living deliciously: The courtyard at Domo.

Location Info

Map

Domo

1365 Osage St.
Denver, CO 80204

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Central Denver

Details

1365 Osage Street, 303-595-3666. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Monday- Saturday

Nikyu nabe: $17.75
Sakana nabe: $18.75
Chicken teriyaki: $15.75
Maguro teriyaki: $19.50
Shrimp udon: $18.75
Maguro and hamachi: donburi $21.75
Shiozake donburi: $17.75
Wanko sushi (3 piece): $22.25

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Often, Domo's servers get my orders wrong. They forget things, they bring me things I didn't order. Because the kitchen is incredibly talented, I don't mind -- but it always makes eating here an adventure, and simply putting down the menu a risk. Tonight they have forgotten my shumai, so I ask for it boxed to go, then step outside for a moment. The garden is beautiful, empty but for two women watching the waterfall, and quiet even though just beyond the walls is all of Denver, pressing as close as a pickpocket. I walk along the paths, wind through the tables, make a long circle through the trees and sculpted hills and stones. The door to the museum attached to Domo is open, so I step inside the dimly lit room and find myself staring at the last meals of a hundred dead men, all laid out in neat and tidy lines on wooden tables.

Right now, Homma has on display the sakezuki (sake cups) used by kamikaze pilots during World War II -- the cups that served them the last thing they ever tasted before going off to die. Coming upon them unexpectedly is shocking, the plain display moving in its austerity. I stand a moment, looking. I think that probably my shumai are ready, so I back out slowly. And the sound of my boots on the hardwood floor of the museum is very, very loud.

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