My wife and I celebrated our 16th anniversary this week. The only thing we really wanted to do to commemorate the occasion was to go out to dinner without worrying about what the kids would eat. My mom volunteered to keep the children alive while we went out, and I agonized over what restaurant we should visit. I thought I needed a preset tasting menu in order to be satisfied. However, I realized that I could just order whatever I wanted and it could be my own tasting menu. Bar Dojo was the choice!
This was not my first visit to Bar Dojo. This link will bring you to the other reviews I’ve posted. I’ve started stalking Chef Brambila on Facebook/Instragram because I think he’s doing really amazing things in the kitchen (conveniently about 4 miles from my house). While mocktails were not the focus of the evening, they certainly had a place at the table. There were three on the menu, but they had run out of the shrub syrup for one of them. We ordered the other two.
The deep purple of ube and the bright orange of a marigold were such a striking contrast. I don’t eat a lot of purple food, so this was very intriguing. I also love horchata. Horchata is a sweet rice milk with cinnamon, and ube is a cartoonish purple sweet potato/yam that’s pretty common in many Asian countries. Ube horchata was everything I love about horchata, but it had a little bit of earthy nuance from the ube that I thought complimented the cinnamon really well. It was creamy and satisfying, but it doesn’t improve as the ice melts. Don’t let it linger on the table. Drink this one while it’s fresh.
The Rose Blossom has rose syrup, lime juice, soda, and an orange twist. I don’t think I had an orange twist, but it did have a beautiful orchid blossom as a garnish. Sometimes rose can be overwhelmingly perfumey. It reminds me of how a relative (I won’t name who) once accidentally snacked on a bowl of potpourri back in the 90s. They mistook it for Chex mix or something. Despite my bias, this was delightful. The rose flavor was strong enough that I could taste it, but very well balanced with the fresh lime. It was a very light and refreshing sparking limeade. Unlike the horchata, this drink was totally fine being stretched out through the duration of the meal. The melting ice diluted it a bit, but it was very tasty throughout.
As I mentioned, I decided to create my own tasting menu. We started off with a couple oysters (kumamoto and shigoku) that were served with a wasabi cocktail sauce and a yuzu ginger mignonette. They were great, but I’m not an oyster expert.
Up next is something that I had ordered as takeout several times, but never had an opportunity to eat in the restaurant. Pork dumplings! Given how good they’ve been as takeout, my expectations were extremely high. Guess what? They were exceeded. The filling is incredibly juicy, the dumpling wrappers are perfectly steamed, and the scallions in the hot oil sauce give it a nice fresh punch to cut through the fat. The chili oil was spicy, and it lingered, but the ube horchata cooled it down well. These are a must-order.
We also got an order of avocado rice. It’s an understated menu item at Bar Dojo, but it’s amazing. The avocado makes it rich and creamy, but it also has a lot of salsa verde flavors.
I asked nicely and our server agreed to stagger our entrees so that we could share them and eat them both while they were fresh. First up was a black cod kasuzuke dish with an asparagus kasu risotto, edamame, pickled shallots, and a balsamic gochujang reduction. The reduction was reminiscent to a punchy teriyaki sauce. It was great on the fish, but a little sweet to mix with the risotto. The risotto was amazing, though. It had crunchy slices of asparagus as well as plump edamame mixed throughout. The black cod was the star, obviously, and it might be the most perfectly cooked fish I’ve ever had. It was exceptionally flakey and light. It felt special.
The black cod was my wife’s choice, but the next entrée was mine. I ordered the honey adobo fried rockfish with a spicy fish sauce caramel. It sounded crazy. It looked crazy. It smelled crazy. It was amazing! They fry the fish nearly whole with an adobe spiced breading. I loved that there was seasoning underneath the breading, so the fish had a good flavor on its own. The real treat was constructing a perfect bite of the rockfish, the breading, the fish sauce caramel (a sweet/umami sauce), and a squeeze of fresh lime. I loved this dish. The fish wasn’t cooked 100% consistently, but it’s a meal that can get away with a bit of imperfection. Everything about it worked. Even the jicama slaw/salsa was well thought out and provided a bit of contrast and reprieve to the other bold flavors on the plate.
We were just going to get one dessert, but that didn’t seem like enough fun. So, we ordered one for each of us and shared. My wife ordered the white chocolate yuzu cheesecake, and it was the favorite. Yuzu is a citrus that is both delicate and bold. It’s acidic enough to cut through something rich like a cheesecake, but it’s not as bold as a lemon or a lime. This was one of the best cheesecakes I’ve had in a while. Meanwhile, I ordered the lychee crème brulee. It was beautiful, and the creme was very tasty, but I’ve decided that I just don’t really care for lychee. It looks cool, and it sounds fun, but it’s almost always a disappoint when I could have had something more exciting like passionfruit. Or mango. Or raspberry. So, the creme brulee was good, but the cheesecake was better.
To finish us off, Chef Brambila sent a surprise. He’s been working on a dessert dish and wanted us to try it out. I believe it was a tres leches cake with condensed milk and popping lychee pearls. The cake was really well done and absorbed the sweetened milk and rum without getting soggy. The only disappointment for me were the lychee pearls, and that’s because my heart has given up on lychee. I wanted passionfruit! It was still delicious, but after the marathon of dishes that we enjoyed I was ready to call it a night. I really appreciated that personal touch of sending out the dessert with a Happy Anniversary message, though. This is why I love Bar Dojo and Chef Brambila. Well, that and the fact that the food is outstanding.
In case this wasn’t obvious, you should go to Bar Dojo. I know that I only technically tried one “soda” during this meal but somehow reviewed the whole menu, but I want more people to discover this restaurant. They’ve earned a little more recognition and I would love to see them flourish.