Sushi with Sister at Doraku

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Originally posted June 24, 2011

A couple weeks ago my sister and I had a sushi date at our favourite spot: Doraku Japanese Restaurant (now named Suzuki Restaurant). This was probably my fourth visit to this little hole-in-the-wall type of joint, and I arrived first, making my way down the strange sidewalk alley on Dresden Row which leads to the entrance of Doraku. The door was propped open, as it was a warm evening in Halifax and as like many small foodservice establishments, Doraku does not have air conditioning.

We were excited to order our favourite roll, the signature Doraku roll, however we both got a little ambitious in the process of ordering, and ended up with an appetizer each (for me, salad with ginger dressing and for her, miso soup) as well as splitting an order of edamame, spicy tuna rolls, yam tempura rolls, and soft shell crab rolls (on top of the Doraku rolls). Yes…our eyes were a bit bigger than our stomachs, as they say. My salad was full of excellent surprises like roasted corn, broccoli and boiled egg, and edamame never fails to satisfy that salty craving.

Although many feel that Doraku’s menu lacks a bit of creativity, I have to say that I quite prefer their simple style. All of the major sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls are covered, along with a few specialty rolls, on Doraku’s menu, and for me that’s all they need. I’m not usually interested in the overpriced, over-complex fusion rolls on other, more expensive sushi restaurant menus, that normally showcase some sort of Atlantic Canadian ingredient more suited to the Western palate. Having said that, I’ve never had sushi in Japan and maybe my usual order is more suited to the Western palate – regardless – I like simple maki or sashimi that shows off the raw fish, a bit of tempura here and there, and lots of wasabi!

Once finished our soup, salad and most of the edamame, the spicy tuna, yam tempura and Doraku rolls arrived all at once. I love a simple veggie roll like yam tempura, or sometimes avocado, and the spicy tuna is definitely considered a consistent sushi craving pleaser. The Doraku roll, dubbed by our friend Gill as the “Japanese Big Mac” probably isn’t the healthiest of sushi options, but it is rich and delicious. Tempura shrimp, eel, avocado, cucumber and spicy sauce are the ingredients of the Doraku roll. The spicy sauce is more of a heavy mayo-type and all of the ingredients are right inside the roll. The end product with the bit of tempura crispiness, creamy avocado texture, eel, and cucumber crunch along with the sauce creates quite the delicious, addictive experience. I have no idea what is in the mysterious spicy sauce, and maybe that’s why it has been compared to a Big Mac.

Just as I was force-feeding myself the final Doraku roll, thinking that my stomach could hold no more, our soft shell crab rolls arrived to the party, a bit late. We had been hoping they’d forgotten our order… but in reality they just take a bit longer to prepare and were waiting to make their grand entrance just as we were both wishing we’d wore elastic waistband pants. The waitress might have been a bit confused, as we both burst out laughing, exclaiming there was no way we could eat these additional rolls… but we did both try one, and after a few minutes, our stomachs had settled and we even agreed to pursue dessert. We informed our waitress we’d pack up the remaining soft shell crab rolls, but we were interested in something sweet.

There were several ice cream flavours that caught my eye, and we both settled on mango, having been told by our server that it comes as just one scoop. I am glad that I waited a few minutes and trooped it out… the mango ice cream was subtle, not overly sweet, and creamy in a light, enjoyable way, not a heavy dairy way. I ate the whole scoop and we left very, very satisfied! Another successful sushi date at Doraku.

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