Date Night asks the question: what’s a nice Korean-born chef who grew up in Iowa doing in Atlanta making sushi? Chef Todd Dae Kulper is a sushi savant. He’s worked at all of the Doraku locations, including Hawaii and Florida.
Luckily for us, you can now eat his creations right here in Atlanta.
Due to the kind invitation of Malika Bowling of the Association of Food Bloggers, we are making our first visit to a restaurant in the Shops of Buckhead development. We like the free parking for the first three hours. (Tip: don’t overstay your welcome, as they charge you once you go over three hours.)
The restaurant is beautifully decorated, with lots of stone, wood, and hanging lanterns.
Our chef’s table is huge, with large slabs of wood that go almost the entire width of the restaurant. This thing must weigh a ton.
We don’t drink a lot of sake, but when we do, we should drink Dancing Crane sake. The chef picks it because it goes with everything.
Translated, the label says this: it’s 15% alcohol and we are cheap dates, so go slow. Kanpai! (Cheers in Japanese. We learn a lot tonight.)
There’s edamame to nosh on.
Anybody know what this is?
If you guess fried lotus root, you spend a lot of time in sushi bars. We think we are eating very crispy potato chips. However, potatoes are not shaped like this. We could have eaten these all night, but there is so much more food to try.
Chef Todd starts us off with a James River oyster.
As you look at tonight’s meal, notice all of the workmanship that goes into each dish. Sure, this is an oyster, but look at how someone has to put it in ice, cover the ice in seaweed, then top the oyster with three more layers. It’s almost a shame to eat.
There’s a lot of love on our next platter.
The sashimi taco is a big hit with our attendees. Continuing down the plate is ahi poke, a nod to the south with a deviled egg, eggplant miso and cod nanbanzuke.
The crispy Brussels sprouts are the best-selling dish at Doraku. We can see why. It’s a blogger favorite too. So is the chicken-fried octopus in the center.
Chef Kulper points out that the octopus is fresh, not frozen, which is what keeps it from tasting like chewy rubber bands when it is fried. There is also a scallop on the plate, garnished with monkfish liver pate that they make right here. Who makes fish liver pate in Atlanta? Probably nobody else.
We are up to the sixth course now, sea urchin with inure pasta.
With apologies to our gluten-free readers, Chef Kulper points out that the pasta is a extra-gluten blend. This makes it chewier than normal.
Sushi dominates the next plate. It should–we are in a sushi place.
Tuna, salmon and soy butter grilled king crab grace this plate. The crab is an incredible treat. We tell them that they should offer this combo on the menu. You can probably order it if you ask nice.
Doraku does sushi rolls, of course.
We get the Saigon roll (full of mint), a salmon roll, the God of Fire (spicy tuna) roll and something called “double happiness”, a rice-less roll that has a consistency my date does not like.
As you can imagine, we are about to burst, but there is always room for a brownie tempura.
Yep, they fry the cake in a tempura batter and top it with caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What a fine way to end our sushi-fest.
By the time we are done, we feel as if we have tasted the entire menu. Everything is delicious, and we are sushi sated. What a great night at Doraku. Before we go, we should mention that Doraku is hosting a Super Bowl party for the big game. Look for an interesting array of wagu beef, including hot dogs and sliders.
Disclosure time: Because this was a media event, Date Night did not pay for our meal at Doraku. Our words, however, are priceless. Thanks to Chef Kulper for a memorable night and to the Association of Food Bloggers for the invitation.