There can’t be any question that Italian (Monello, Parella, Il Foro, Italian Eatery, etc., etc.) is the trend of 2015. But we’ve also seen some burbling on the Asian gastro-pub front, with the opening of the stellar Ramen Kazama and Northeast’s new Domo Gastro.
The latter sports a casual, no-frills decor (we’re a long way from the professionally curated Nihon kitsch of Masu) and a menu that emphasizes simple dishes with a clear, earthy, satisfying point of view. The restaurant’s monastic appearance echoes its operating philosophy — servers, bartenders, and cooks share jobs, and there’s no tipping. Instead, Domo Gastro tacks a 20 percent service charge onto the bill.
Amid the straightforward and inviting dishes that make up the bill of fare were a few real stars. The Hmong sausage, chicken, and shrimp Spicy Pork Eggrolls ($9) may be the best eggrolls we’ve had. Exquisitely crispy, thin little tubes stuffed with moist, unctuous, spicy-but-mellow pork, these eggrolls solve the most common problem of their kind: the ratio of exterior to filling. Instead of being messy, exploding balls of hot cabbage, these eggrolls are compact little cigarettes of flavor. The nuoc cham dipping sauce is a perfect complement.
Domo Gastro’s Kimchi Fries ($8, top) stop just short of brilliant. The caramelized kimchi provides a funky, soulful backbone to the dish, and the fries themselves have a pleasant, soulful potato richness (enhanced by a soft-boiled egg) and a bit of crunch to them. Cilantro brightens up the plate. The only thing we missed was a sprinkling of un-cooked kimchi, which would have provided some welcome acid and spicy kick.
The restaurant’s Marinated Deviled Eggs ($7) were a clever one-two punch — two of them brought soy-marinated umami, and two were more of a hot mustard and allium sort of thing. And the Fried Cauliflower ($8) had a crunchiness and savory herbiness that we really dug.
With the torrent of ramen pouring through our streets these days, you’d assume that all the new stuff would rise to the occasion, but sadly that’s not the case. While we enjoyed the fatty, richly flavored broth of the Domo Ramen ($13; half portion is pictured), its noodles were characterless and the pork belly — the fulcrum that this dish turns upon — was an overly chewy, largely flavorless wreck. To be charitable: Masu and Corner Table are two of the only places around here where we’ve consistently gotten perfectly cooked pork belly It’s a dish that confounds a lot of cooks.
On the cocktail front, we were pleased but not dazzled. The Panda ($9) combined maple syrup, bourbon and orange, but leaned a bit too heavily on the last of those ingredients, putting it in well-made Screwdriver territory. And our Two Gingers whiskey, honey syrup, lemon juice, and ginger Gunslingers ($9) didn’t blow us away (we could have taken a stronger hit of ginger), but we sipped it down happily.
It’s hard not to like what’s going down at Domo Gastro. An earnest approach to food, a local-focused spirits menu and a few really nicely crafted dish make this a great spot to sit out a cold winter – or, as is the case this year, just happily while away some time waiting for winter to arrive.
Asian gastropub in Northeast Minneapolis
1032 3rd Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55421
(no phone listed)
Wed, Thu, Sun: 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat: 4 p.m.-1 a.m.
OWNER: Joe Radaich
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
PARKING: Small lot, limited street parking