The last time I enjoyed a meal at DaRuMa, I’m ashamed to say it was still located at the Sarasota Quay. Fortunately I recalled only good things, so when deciding where to dine with our friend Jeff and his young daughter, it was not only the taste of the food, but also the entertainment aspect we took under consideration. You see, although you can get great sushi at DaRuMa, we chose to enjoy our evening at a Teppan-style table at this A-Lister establishment.
As Jill and I arrived ahead of our guests, we ambled into the gorgeous bar area for a couple of appetizers and some hot sake. The atmosphere is certainly unique. There is a large silk tree decorated with origami birds in the center of the bar, and it’s up-lighted for a dramatic effect and nice shadows on the ceiling. One side of the u-shaped bar is home to the Sushi Bar, while the other offers seating for folks looking for a liquid libation or appetizer — kinda like us!
Since mussels and escargot are never bad choices, IMHO, we chose the distinctly DaRuMa-style apps of Mussels Tempura, which are mussels dipped in a light tempura batter and then fried – making for a truly decadent and tasty way to enjoy one of my favorite mollusks. They arrived piping hot, with a creamy dipping sauce and an edible orchid decorating the plate. So very “Kawairashii” (that’s “lovely” in Japanese. . . at least according to Google!)
The Escargot Jalapeno Nippon arrived in the traditional dimpled escargot serving dish, but in a not-so-traditional orange hued miso sauce, with a slight bite of jalapeno in the taste. Totally unexpected by either Jill or myself, we didn’t miss the garlic butter at all! This was a perfect “east meets classic west” dish with delicious results as well! Isn’t it fun to experiment with how other cultures prepare your favorite foods? DaRuMa handled this version of the Escargot masterfully. Even the little bread croutons cut to fit the dimples of the escargot dish were a treat.
By now our friends had arrived, so we made to move to the Teppan dining room, and soon were seated with 5 others at the showcase teppanyaki cook top for our much anticipated “dinner and a show”. This is really an ideal setting for anyone looking to make new friends, as we soon were conversing with our table mates, or for a large family gathering, as we saw occurring at a neighboring teppanyaki table. There are several seating options, from the standard chair at the table, to the step down seating shown below — but all of them reflect the same intimate experience of a Teppan chef cooking right in front of you.
Every meal at the Teppan tables comes with a bowl of DaRuMa’s tasty Oriental Clear Soup and a side salad with ginger dressing to start the festivities, umm, meal. This allows the Chef to greet each of us and set up his mis-en-place, while our server took our orders. Everyone at our table seemed to love both the soup, which had an earthy mushroom-y flavor, and the salad. Miso dressing, made with ginger, is never as tasty from a bottle as when served in a quality Japanese restaurant. Fresh and crunchy with that ginger zing, this is one of those salads I cannot resist!
The Teppan menu consists largely of both single protein dishes, as well as combinations with two proteins, which we SarasotaFoodies love. It’s like getting four entrées for the price of two! Jill’s choice of the lobster and shrimp had me narrowed down to anything not containing lobster or shrimp, so the duck and filet was my choice. Jeff chose the filet and shrimp, while young Karina went off the Teppan menu, and opted for a more kid-friendly (as in delivered in less than 5 minutes) noodle based entrée. The name of her dish escapes me, though not one noodle escaped Karina. Little as she is, she ate the entire entree, right down to the edible flower!
It wasn’t long before the action on the table-top grill got fast and furious, with the highly practiced chef flashing his knives and spatulas at a pace almost as fast as the entertaining banter that accompanies the meal preparation. In addition to the soup and salad, everyone got an order of Shrimp Flambé, Stir Fried Vegetables, and Japanese Steamed Rice. Needless to say, Karina was all smiles and giggles when our Teppan Chef made a fiery volcano out of a stack of onions. Come to think of it, so was I! This is the kind of place where if somehow you’re not in the best of moods coming in, you’ll experience a complete turnaround during the evening.
I mean, come on — I grew up with a mom who told me not to play with my food. So imagine how fun it is to watch our chef play with it for us? Take that, Miss Manners! After the stir fry vegetables were cooked and served up on each plate at the table, our chef took on the fried rice. This was clearly not the way we have rice at home, or probably anywhere else. Each bowl was filled with rice, then flipped into the air upside down and caught by the chef. Jill tried to catch the action on film, but who knew you need a fast action setting when ordering your food!
Honestly, those bowls were FULL and I don’t think he lost a single grain of rice . . . I wonder how he is at balancing other things? Like my checkbook? Hmmm.
Since we were served the rice, shrimp and vegetables first, we were eating each course as quickly as they landed on our plates, so we couldn’t take photos of a fully plated entree. Needless to say, for someone who enjoys cooking as much as I do, it was a treat to watch a master with a chef knife and time management. Even though all eight of the adult’s courses were on the Tappan grill at one time, the Chef didn’t miss the temperature choice on any one of them.
For the sake of our gentle readers, we almost always find a way to fit in at least one dessert, but on this evening we couldn’t even finish what we ordered, making a sweet treat at meal’s end seem like sheer folly to even think we could tackle one. ‘Nuff said. We did sit back for a few moments to relax with a cup of Japanese Green Tea at the end of the meal, while Karina enjoyed a dish of ice cream. (Where do kids put all that food?!)
With 17 years, and counting, in business, which is a serious run in such an evolving industry, this is one place will never get old!