Do you know how to tell that we’ve reached peak sushi? Something called a hand roll bar now exists. Do you know how to tell that we’ve obliterated whatever benchmark of peak sushi that there was? Hand rolls – once the jewel of finger foods – are now apparently just a small piece of fish wrapped in a warm piece of seaweed – oops, Nori – that answers the question, “What if I put a seaweed snack in the microwave for 48 seconds?” The name of this wonderful experiment is DomoDomo, and though there are some redeeming qualities – the decor and service immediately come to mind – I gave up on this hand roll bar once eel drizzled with chocolate sauce was set down in front of me.
DomoDomo is located on West Houston Street (pronounced HOW-sten), right on the border of SoHo, a neighborhood even many of you outside of New York are likely aware of. The space grew to prominence when the original Ushikwakamuru was around, though that doesn’t really mean anything; sushi restaurants come and go in New York City faster than terrible analogies die without any real point. The space itself is located in the basement, which does hold some importance – seats aren’t exactly plentiful. The night I went – that mythical terrible sushi day of Monday – I couldn’t spot one empty seat, though by 9:00 the place had cleared out.
Deep down, I admire what Brian Kim and Jae Park are trying to do. None of us aspires to be ordinary, so why not try something different? The website (www.domodomonyc.com) spells it out nice and clearly – The first hand roll bar in New York – practically coaxing the excitement out of us. And it worked! “Brilliant” I thought to myself – hand rolls (or “temaki”) were always the stepsister of my sushi experience; loved in theory, but probably under appreciated if we’re going to be honest with ourselves. In practice, DomoDomo misses the mark. Take for instance the hand rolls, ostensibly the star of the show and the reason for DomoDomo’s being. If you spend a few minutes (or hours) looking around Instagram right now at hand rolls – also knows as a Monday night for The Sushi Legend – I guarantee that nothing from DomoDomo will catch your eye.
That’s because DomoDomo has somehow forgotten to make the handrolls – the focus of this entire enterprise – visually appealing. Or even visual. I say the second part, because if you take a look below to the right, the only thing I see is a black tube. There is salmon in there, but don’t worry, it was stringy. And if your reaction right now is “I could make that!”, the answer is unequivocally… yes. Yes, you likely could. Below you’ll also find the aformentioned Unagi, which is the only handroll on offer that is desconstructed. Great right? It would be, if the eel sauce wasn’t mixed with chocolate, because why not?
One thing that DomoDomo does have is the serenity of its space. Dark, open and small, DomoDomo feels like the standard lux sushi restaurant, though if you’re OCD like The Sushi Legend, you might get perturbed by the random pattern of switched on lights. The waitstaff is incredibly friendly – one even dug up my phone number to call me when I forgot my credit card – but don’t expect more than one word from the sushi chefs behind the bar. One peculiar thing that DomoDomo does is with the hand towels. They come about the size of a penny, completely dried out. Customers are given a liquid solution – likely beautiful New York City spring water – to which the penny towel is added to create expansion. It’s a neat parlour trick, but I found myself preferring regular towels for my fingers in between courses. Alas, penny towels were it.