Last night the Examiner attended a tasting at Buena Park's new Japanese restaurant, Dami Sushi and Izakaya. “We wanted to a restaurant that was a little different than the usual fare in our Korean community”, said Brandon Lee, co-owner of Dami. “We wanted to make it a comfortable place. We wanted somewhat of a hip place, which usually doesn't equate to Japanese food. We decided we were going to offer traditional sushi, sashimi and rolls but then add more of the izakaya dishes. That's where we brought in an expert to help us with the recipes and menu design and what we were going to offer. The person came from Korea, he's from one of the famous places and came in as a consultant. We put our own little touches here and there”.
“I think that's the key”, Brandon said, “trying to blend all these flavors together. It took us five months to get the flavor and presentation the way we liked it”. He continued, “We're hoping that the customers enjoy a similar vision to ours”. Indeed, the décor in Dami Sushi and Izakaya is interesting, somewhat industrial but also with tables made of rich woods. It does create a comfortable atmosphere to enjoy some delicious food and drink.
“We have two concepts for menu pricing, a dinner menu price and also a happy hour price. On the happy hour menu, the dishes will be more slimmed down, but they will also be dishes designed to complement the microbrews and craft sakes that we sell”, Brandon said. In it's literal sense an izakaya is a pub, a place for people to go after work and unwind. The food and drink is geared towards small, reasonably priced portions, so guests may pick and choose whatever combination they want.
“We bring in our fresh oysters daily. We get the fresh oysters daily from New York and also Seattle. We're rotating them for now”, Brandon said. Indeed, for an oyster lover, this may be the best Happy Hour in Southern California, with fresh oysters at the Happy Hour time of 5 to 7pm and also at 9pm to 11pm, available for only $1.00 each. To get fresh oysters of this quality for that price is just about unheard of in southern California.
“We've signed up with DirecTV specifically to carry Major League Beaseball. As you know, there is still the dispute over the Dodgers with Time Warner, but as soon as it is resolved we will have wvwet game here”. In the meantime, they have upbeat music going, creating a lively atmosphere so guests will feel upbeat and happy.
“When we thought about opening this restaurant at this particular location, we wanted to break away from that mold that restaurants in this area need to cater to Koreans one hundred per cent. We wanted to break away from that mold and try to cater more to a mixed clientele, Americans, just people's friends. We are getting there, literally. After a month, the's a mix of 30 percent American to 70 percent Korean. We're trying to get to fifty percent. I think that way, everybody mingles together and are happy. That's what 'iziakaya' means. A place to hang out with friends, in a relaxed atmosphere and enjoy the day.
The izakaya menu, along with the sushi menu, lists many delicious, interesting items. The Whole Grain Salad is a light, healthy dish perfect for a vegetarian of someone who wants a lighter, salad-based dish in order to not ruin their dinner. The Dami Seafood Box is filled with plenty of very fresh sushi and sashimi and is great for shring with two people. The Miso Grilled Chilean Sea Bass is an exceptionally well donepiece of fish, grilled to perfection. As is with all the izakaya dishes, it comes by itself so guests can pair it with other choices. That way of serving also makes most of these dishes ideal for passing around tastes in a larger group.
Yoshi is Dami's expert in beverages. He was a wealth of knowledge, explaining the different properties of the craft sakes and microbrews that Dami Sushi and Izakaya has. He said that they are trying to go with all craft sakes and microbrews in order to have much better quality in the drinks, as well as serving many items that are actually locally produced in small quantities.
Brandon finished by saying, “We are trying to get to the state where the customer says we are 'exceptional”. If they haven't reached that state yet, judging by the smiles and laughter of the patrons inside, they are already coming close. Dami Sushi and Izakaya is certainly on it's way towards being the place to hang out, have fun and enjoy some exceptional Japanese and Korean based pub foods.
Dami Sushi and Izakaya
Village Circle on Beach Shopping Center
5151 Beach Blvd, Unit A
Buena Park, CA 90621