Go for the Food: Denver
Domo isn’t just a Japanese restaurant. It’s a place where you can immerse yourself in Japanese culture - by visiting a museum that evokes a northern Japanese farmhouse, strolling in a garden studded with Buddha statues, or even taking a martial arts class in the lovingly converted former warehouse where the restaurant compound is located.
But for all the activity options, Domo’s ambiance - like the food - is uncluttered and serene. Diners sit at bare, rustic tables fashioned from recycled sandstone pavers. And don’t go looking for the usual bottle of soy sauce. Owner and head chef Gaku Homma doesn’t want anything to mask the flavors of his long-simmered broths and delicate noodles, stars of a cuisine he calls country Japanese.
Lunch at Domo might be a tangle of cold buckwheat noodles, to be warmed as you eat, by dipping a loaded chopstick into a bowl of slightly sweet soup of burdock and scallions. Dinner might be ramen: wheat noodles in miso broth. Meals come with an array of sides, including a salad of chicken, peanuts, cilantro and jalapeno; or green beans dressed with tofu, garlic and sundried tomato.
But the restaurant is also a place to feed the soul and contemplate the complex mix of histories and cultures that make Denver and its food scene worth sampling.
Colorado’s first Japanese immigrants were 19th-century peasant pioneers who worked on railroads and farms, and in mills and mines. A century later, during World War II, Japanese-Americans were rounded up into relocation camps, including one in southeastern Colorado, even though Colorado’s then-governor Ralph Carr denounced such treatment as unconstitutional. After the war, some former internees - including those who’d come from other states - made homes in Colorado, and the local Japanese-American population became bigger, younger and better-educated.