Roll With It
Doraku offers up sushi with a twist.
Building on his family’s legacy, Kevin Aoki, the son of Rocky Aoki (founder of the Benihana chain of restaurants), followed in his father’s footsteps and created his own restaurant chain called Doraku Sushi.
The menu is inspired by Japanese izakaya dining, with a definite hint of South Beach sexiness, no doubt owing to the restaurant’s roots in the Miami hotspot. Doraku set up shop here in Waikiki six years ago, and with its relaxed environment paired with an upscale spin, it has become the perfect place to satisfy anyone’s sushi cravings.
Doraku has many menu items ranging from hot and cold dishes, to specialty sushi rolls, desserts and more. A popular sushi roll on the menu is the Emperor Roll, filled with crab, tuna, salmon, avocado, scallop and shrimp. The Double Happiness dish is another favorite menu item. “Double Happiness is actually one of the most popular offerings we have at any location across the nation,” says general manager Michael Weider. The dish features tuna, salmon, scallop, ika, shrimp, crab meat, shiso leaf and kaiware sprouts wrapped with nori and thinly sliced cucumber sheets; the final touch is a topping of garlic aioli, tobiko eggs and ponzu sauce. It’s a unique (and delicious) take on a sushi roll—there is no rice!
A fun part of the dining experience happens even before you begin eating—reading through the menu’s interesting dish names. Geisha Roll, Dancing Eel Roll and Bamboo Roll are just some of the items featured. Not only is naming rolls a fun task, it also brings a familial sense of unity within the restaurant’s staff. “We’re all very tight, we’re always in constant communication,” Weider explains. “When it comes to naming a roll it’s definitely something that everyone’s involved in. We’ve gone days and days and days, tossing names back and forth until one actually sticks for an item.”
Weider says that their executive sushi chef, Chef Jin Hosono, keeps his eyes on the market for local fish on a daily basis. “There are some fish available here that we can’t get in any of our other locations, so we do take advantage of that,” Weider says. “We’ll feature some local items as they become available throughout the week and when they’re gone, they’re gone.”
Doraku not only offers a variety of sushi, but an ample selection of sake as well. “We probably have one of the most extensive sake menus on the island,” says Weider. “I know that those are big shoes to fill especially here in Honolulu, but we definitely have more than most.” According to Weider, Doraku offers a selection of 20 or more sake types at any given time.
Kevin Aoki is very engaged in his restaurant. “He is absolutely involved from the ground up,” proclaims Weider.
Whether you’re dining for two or feasting with a larger party, Doraku can accommodate your needs. “I’ve successfully accommodated a party of 50 before believe it or not,” Weider says. “It just depends on the kind of party that you are, a bachelorette party, going away party … we’ve done corporate parties and that works out really well with the setup we have here.”
Another thing Doraku is known for is its Happy Hour from 3-7 p.m. According to Weider, Happy Hour is something that Doraku has been known for throughout the years.
So to customers new and old, whether you’re relaxing on Doraku’s patio or lounging in their teahouse booths, sit back and enjoy their sushi cuisine.
Royal Hawaiian Center
2233 Kalakaua Ave. Suite 304 [C:8 Waikiki Map]
Photos: Justin R. Dotson