Doraku Restaurant - New Izakaya Offers Exceptional Japanese Cuisine
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Of the many blessings for which I am grateful and truly appreciate is having "foodie" friends tell me about new places I've not tried before. When Keiko N. asked if had I been to one of her favorites, Doraku, I replied I hadn't and then embarked on a strategy to seek out this hidden treasure with someone "in the know" who could help me navigate through the Japanese menu.
Fortunately, I was able to arrange a dinner meeting with my friend Chie, who works at the Japan Consulate, and whom I later discovered had an unabashed enthusiasm for food adventures that mirrored my own. Doraku Restaurant is on the ground floor of Tumon's Pia Resort, located on the road behind the DFS Galleria and past the R&C Tours headquarters building. Parking is tough, but not impossible, with only 6 spaces devoted to the restaurant in the main parking lot. More than likely, you'll have better luck parking along the road (where there is ample parking). Don't let parking deter you from trying Doraku, for once you've eaten here, you'd walk the length of Tumon for a seat at Doraku's sushi bar!
When I had arrived, Chie was already seated and having a Calpico High cocktail (a blend of Shochu with Calpico Water - a popular Japanese non-carbonated soft drink that's both sweet and refreshing). I ordered one as well, and then we perused the menu. Doraku is only open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 6pm to midnight (last order at 11pm). Daily specials are posted on two black boards mounted on the walls. This place is clean, has style and class, yet is very relaxed and casual - kind of an after-work meeting place for business types. (I know my review will make some of them unhappy since the new customers will take away the intimate isolation some of them presently enjoy!)
We ordered appetizers and started with Kawa-ebi Karage (fried fresh water baby shrimp - $6), that were just magnificent, with plenty of these golden-colored, bite-sized crustaceans to share. You can eat them plain or with a drizzle of lemon, either way, they are delicious. Our next dish was the Tofu Steak ($6), which I needed to try to compare with Izakaya Katsu's Tofu Steak, my favorite. Doraku's Tofu Steak is served on a cast-iron platter on a wooden underliner (known in the trade as a sizzling platter, though nothing was sizzling). Like the Kawa-ebi, the presentation was impressive, with strips of seaweed, bonito shavings, and scallions covering the top, all of which made a slow curling motion as they reacted to the heat. There were several slabs of tofu seated in the center of the platter and bathed in a savory, semi-spicy sauce with minced chicken (similar to Ma Po Tofu in taste). Our server, Marie, asked my opinion of their version....I said that it was quite good but a different style than Katsu's. One difference is that this version is not suitable for vegetarians since there are fish flakes and minced chicken present.
Another appetizer, Baked Eggplant ($4) was delivered. It was completely buried under bonito flakes..these really complemented the smoky taste of the eggplant. If you enjoy eggplant, this one would be an excellent choice.
Then things began to get dramatic...the Assorted Sashimi ($20 & up) was delivered...and took my breath away! Stunningly-beautiful, the presentation included Saba (mackerel) Rolled Ika (squid, with seaweed inside), Maguro (tuna), the much-prized Toro (fatty tuna underbelly), Kaibashira (large scallops), Tako (octopus), Hamachi (yellow tail), and Sake (salmon, slightly seared). This was a divine, ritualistic eating experience, where true reverence and enjoyment of and for each bite, flavor, texture, and taste are appreciated. The Toro just melted in my mouth..it was so light and buttery. Chie showed me how to take a piece of shiso (leaf from the perilla plant - Japanese basil) that decorated the platter with its shiny green freshness and eat it with my mackerel. The semi-seared salmon was another one of those "died and gone to heaven" foods...I don't think it could have been any better.
While we were eating, a couple of Doraku's regulars sitting at the sushi bar (Tes and her friend) wanted us to try some of what they were eating and shared a small portion of an exquisite crab omelet and a spicy sauteed tuna steak that was moist and richly-seasoned. Tes then introduced me to Hideyuki Otsuka, the Chef/owner of Doraku. He had previously been at the Fujita's Japanese restaurant and left Guam after it closed. He returned to Guam and opened Doraku about 7 months ago.
Our final dish (I call it the "coup de grace") arrived, and my "Wow" was squelched in my throat! The menu lists it simply as the Seafood Salad ($8), but once you see it you really can't believe your eyes, as it is a fantasy of delightful sashimi pieces sprinkled with tobiko (crab roe) and strips of nori (dried seaweed laver). We poured a special salad dressing made by Chef Otsuka over the salad and tossed all the ingredients. It was really satisfying, with tuna, salmon, octopus, yellowtail, and squid generously apportioned. We had to take our time as this was a lot of food. It was worth every bite!
Doraku Restaurant has other popular entrees like Seafood Don ($15), Broiled Fish Set ($15), Udon Noodles or Soba ($8), and California Rolls ($12). It's a small, pub-like eatery that has a few tables positioned throughout with a large sushi bar easily taking up a third of the room. It's gotta be one of Guam's best-kept secrets...or I guess it was! Share my pleasure and try Doraku Restaurant in Tumon for fabulous Japanese cuisine skillfully prepared by Chef Otsuka!
Pia Resort, Tumon
Open Mon-Sat 6pm to Midnight (last order at 11pm)