For the past year or so the focus of downtown Salt Lake City has been directed toward the heart of the city. And with good reason, as so many new restaurants and shopping centers were opening up. But there are still plenty of reasons to venture beyond Main Street toward the west part of downtown and one of the best reasons is Dojo Restaurant and Sushi Bar.
Dojo has been serving sushi for a few years now (here’s my original restaurant review from 2011) and while they are still kicking out fantastic rolls and dishing delicious sashimi, they’ve upped the ante with a club liquor license and some incredible Japanese dishes that will have you thinking of comfort food in a whole new way.
First things first :: that liquor license. The new club license allows Dojo to serve drinks without the food requirement, essentially making Dojo a full-service bar. Except with good food. It’s like the best of both worlds. Their drink menu has an extensive list of wines (around $7/glass or $32-42/bottle), a wide range of domestic and Japanese sake (including flights to try several at once), a handful of beers and a whole list of creative cocktails ($4-8).
Last Thursday my friend and I visited Dojo before heading to the Twilight Concert Series because of its proximity to Pioneer Park. It ended up being a perfect place to start our evening, with Thursday drink and food specials like $3 Heinekens, $5 sake flights and $6 sushi rolls. Plus DJ Shawn Phillips is there spinning house music all night.
A few days later I returned to Dojo with my parents, anxious to try the non-sushi items on the menu like Seared Tombo Tacos (tataki-marinated tombo with pico viche, cabbage and cilantro, $6.95) or the Miso Black Cod (miso- and sake-marinated sable fish and sticky rice, $18.95). I ended up ordering Dojo’s Famous Baby Back Ribs ($12.95), grilled in a chocolate/jalapeño/teriyaki glaze served with rice. They were incredible. They had the slightest hint of spiciness, giving some dimension to the sweetness of the teriyaki.
My Mom ordered the Chicken Katsu ($11), lightly breaded in panko and topped with tonkatsu sauce and crushed pistachios, served with steamed rice and asparagus. (Pork is also available for $11.50 and/or topped with Japanese Curry for an additional $2.) Normally chicken katsu is a very basic dish but the pistachios added a kick of crunch and flavor, taking this to a one to new level.
My Dad went the Japanese-style ramen route, available with pork shoulder ($9.95) or pork belly ($10.95). Anxious for ramen like we had when we were in Japan, he ordered pork shoulder. Both variations are served in a shoyu-based broth with green onions, a hard boiled egg, nori and kamaboko. And to my Dad’s delight, you can add house-made kimchi for $2. He was in ramen heaven and claimed it was just like we had in Japan. (Dojo was the runner up in my search for the best ramen in Salt Lake City.)
As my parents and I sat around the table, munching on gyoza and sushi, chicken katsu and ramen, we reminisced about our trip last year to Japan. It was the perfect conversation during our meal. Japanese food has always been comfort food to me, probably thanks to my heritage, and Dojo does it right. Next time you’re downtown, dare to rethink comfort food and your usual sushi order at Dojo.
Go to Dojo for :: An alternative to the typical bar for a drink, for a late night bite of food (or both), and for the incredible Japanese comfort food (in addition to sushi). Notes :: Open Monday-Saturday from 11:30 am – 2:30 pm for lunch and from 5:30-10 pm for dinner (closed Sundays). Reservations are available by calling 801-328-3333.