I can’t believe Orlando’s super-hip Japanese restaurant Domu (http://domufl.com/) opened in November 2016, and it took me over three years to make it there! Located in the East End Market in the hipsterrific Audubon Park neighborhood, the very limited parking spaces fill up quickly, and I had been warned about infamous long waits, even during less busy times. Plus, I work late during the week, and Domu doesn’t accept reservations or even allow takeout orders! That’s their prerogative, I guess. I figured being difficult to get into only added to the hype and made it a hotter foodie destination, but considering my wife and I don’t go out to eat as much as we used to, and she often prefers takeout at home, we stayed away, not wanting to deal with the aggravation.
But Domu now opens for brunch at 11 AM on weekends, with mostly the same menu. I knew I could finally try it if I got there right when it opened, so on a recent Sunday morning, I was the first person to arrive, right around 10:30 — already having to park in an overflow lot for the East End Market. (And because it rained and all the enthusiastic Domu diners went to wait under an overhang, about a dozen people got in before me once the doors finally opened.) But I got seated at the bar, had very friendly service from Leah, and I’m glad to report what many of my faithful readers already knew — Domu was worth the wait.
The things I would hear the most about are Korean fried chicken wings and ramen, so in true Saboscrivner style, I ordered both. The wings (an order of six for an extremely reasonable $9) came out quickly, and they were absolute units, thicc with crispy breading that wasn’t heavy or greasy. They were covered with a sweet, sticky, slightly spicy sauce that was a little thinner than the sauce on the huge and crispy Korean wings my wife and I love so much at Hawkers. But these wings lived up to all the hype.
I ate three of them and still had ramen coming, but I was relieved to find out that even though Domu doesn’t allow takeout orders, they will still provide you with a box to bring your leftovers home. (If not, those three wings were coming home in my guayabera pockets, but I’m glad it didn’t come to that.) I happily packed up the remaining wings for my wife, and they were still warm by the time I got them home to her. (This story has a bittersweet ending: she took one bite and immediately decreed them to be too spicy, so I finished them a little later!)
And then my ravishing, rapturous, radical ramen arrived. All the ramen options all sounded good, but I picked a popular favorite, the Richie Rich ($13), named after a hokey old comic book that helped me learn how to read when I was two years old. It comes with fresh, house-made ramen noodles in a miso-shoyu pork bone broth, with chashu pork, an ajitama brulee egg (half a hard-boiled egg, but with a rich, deep orange, almost custard-like yolk, caramelized on its surface with a blowtorch), scallions, fried garlic, black garlic oil, and domudana. (I’m afraid I have no idea what domudana is.) I am very lucky that I mentioned being allergic to mushrooms, because another ingredient, kikurage, is actually the wood ear or “Jew’s ear” mushroom, and Leah was kind enough to warn me and promise they would leave it out. That was a close one. That Jew’s ear would have destroyed this Jew’s stomach!
I am still new to traditional/”fancy” ramen, after subsisting on cheap Nissin and Maruchan instant ramen noodles for so many years. However, I loved the ramen I tried at Susuru earlier this year, and Domu’s Richie Rich was my latest foray into the exciting world of Big Ramen. It was so delicious, I slurped it all up in record time, even after demolishing those three wondrous wings, and I’ve been craving more ever since. The broth was so creamy! The pork melted in my mouth! That egg was magical! The noodles were streets ahead of any ramen I’ve ever had before (which amounts to the good stuff at Susuru and lots of cheap, unhealthy, instant crap). I don’t know if anyone else in Orlando goes to the trouble of making their own fresh ramen noodles, but Domu is doing something really amazing in that open kitchen. And like I said, I’m late to this party, but many of you already knew that.
The Domu website says its name translates as slang for “a dream come true,” and I’m sure that is true for owner Sonny Nguyen, who is starting his own culinary empire here in Orlando. There is now a second, brand-new Domu location in Dr. Phillips, plus the fast-casual Domu Chibi in Waterford Lakes. His new izakaya pub Tori Tori in the Mills 50 district impressed me when I was there recently, and I know that has quickly become another local hit. After waiting three years, hearing raves about the ramen and whispers about the wings, I had an extremely pleasant and positive experience there myself, without any of the nightmarish waits I had read about. (Saboscrivner Sage Suggestion #1: GET TO RESTAURANTS WHEN THEY OPEN!) So you could say my dream came true at Domu as well.