Cafe Society

Domo: One of the things I'm gonna miss....

As most of you reading this already know, I am not long for this town. In a frighteningly short amount of time, I will be packing my bags and heading for Seattle, where a gig awaits me as restaurant critic at one of our sister papers, the Seattle Weekly.

Still, I've got enough time left to do a little thinking and a little mourning for the scene I'm about to leave. And lately, everything I drive by reminds me that, soon, I'll be too far away to just drop in on some of my favorite places and the addresses that I've haunted for the past seven-and-a-half years.

The one that got me this weekend was Domo -- a place as unique to Denver as any, offering food and an experience that you'll find nowhere else in the United States. Coming up off the Colfax overpass one afternoon, I saw it squatting there in the distance -- this restaurant that defines for me many of the things that are so great about Denver: the profusion of ethnic restaurants, the long history of Japanese food in this landlocked city, the way that the strange intersections of people, places and passions can alter the way an entire population thinks about food.

I visit on a whim -- headed somewhere else, pulling off the highway, coming up over the hump of Colfax and seeing the building squatting there, surrounded by train tracks and low-rise residential developments. It is a busy Friday night, but I have always had excellent luck at Domo, and my favorite seat is one of the last two available. It's a small, low table pressed up against the far wall, facing a window that looks out on the garden and also offers a view of the kitchen, the one right in front of the folk-art sculpture that looks like a ferris wheel made of sticks and rattan but is probably something else entirely.

I wrote that almost four years ago, one tiny segment of a long, sprawling review of Domo that I'd originally envisioned as a literary version of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by Hokusai, but scaled back after seeing the horror in my editor's eyes. It was a recollection of several meals I'd eaten at Domo during the time I'd been in town, all jumbled up and scattered, dealing with everything from my favorite table (described above) to my favorite dishes (miso soup with tiny enoki mushrooms and wakame, salmon with tobiko, cold buckwheat noodles, yellowtail sashimi with hot mustard, shumai and nabemono) to my feelings on the service, the gardens and the teacups from which many Japanese kamikaze took their last taste of anything before going off to die. All of this came back to me as I saw Domo out my side window, my happiness touched with a pang of regret--knowing that, very soon, I may never be in a position to spend a night at Domo again.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason Sheehan
Contact: Jason Sheehan