Japanese food is truly one of my favourites.
That’s why I was super excited to visit Edmonton’s newest Japanese izakaya – Dorinku – which opened on Whyte Avenue at the corner of 102 Street in July.
An izakaya is like a casual Japanese gastropub that typically focuses on drinks and small plates (Fun fact: ‘dorinku’ means drink in Japanese!)
In Japan, izakayas are often popular after-work spots. They work a lot there, so you can imagine the need to have a fun place to kick back after a long day at the office is quite high.
Edmonton is home to just two other izakayas: Izakaya Tomo on the southside and Ikki Izakaya downtown.
I’ve been to Izakaya Tomo a few times (love it there!) but actually haven’t tried Ikki yet (shameful – given my love of Japanese restaurants).
Truth be told I tend to prefer more typical Japanese restaurants over izakayas because izakaya tends to focus so much on that drink aspect and I’m not a big drinker.
I’ve been to a few izakayas in Japan (when Mike and I went last October!)
What I love about them in general, is their wicked atmosphere.
Izakayas are loud, busy, generally smells fantastic and just feels cool – there’s a great vibe and style to them that feels even kind of grungy.
You’ll also tend to find more specialty food items at izakayas that you wouldn’t normally get from your typical sushi spot, which is fun and can be adventurous- for example Mike and I tried offal at one izakaya in Tokyo – hearts and kidneys, that sort of thing. It’s not for everyone and Dorinku doesn’t serve that either (yet?) lol.
At Dorinku, the chefs and servers are lively, yelling greetings and goodbyes as people enter and leave. It’s a really cool, bustling place to be and they offer some dishes not found elsewhere in the city.
I loved Dorinku’s vibe in particular because it reminded me (and Mike) so much of our visits to izakayas in Japan.
Dorinku also has a lot of authentic, straight-from-Japan decor!
They’ve got fake food displays and a working Japanese vending machine, Japanese bidet toilets in the women’s washrooms (Mike was really disappointed they aren’t in the men’s washroom!) and there’s a pachinko gambling machine.
(But seriously – you must try the bidet. Heated seats… ah so lovely).
There’s a lot to look at decor-wise and if you’ve been to or are from Japan, Dorinku should really take you back.
Dorinku is currently serving their soft open menu which offers some pretty good variety of food.
It’s split into starters, salads, sashimi, seafood, meat, sushi, rice and dessert sections.
- Beef Tataki ( lightly seared and sliced AAA tenderloin served with oriental cili dressing and sliced onions – $12.30)
- Tuna Tataki (lightly seared tuna sashimi on bed of sliced onions served with sesame soy citrus and homemade chili oil – $8.30)
- Tuna Avocado (Albacore tuna sashimi and avocado served with a Japanese citrus seaweed sauce – $8.80)
- Mozzarella Minced Katsu (deep fried breaded minced beef and pork cutlet wrapped around a mozzarella filling – $7.80)
- Ramen Salad (organic spring mix with ramen noodles, pork chashu, half boiled egg, cucumber, Japanese pickles, onion, seaweed and a sesame soy dressing – $10.30)
- Dorinku Ramen (slow-cooked pork and chicken broth, ramen noodles with binchotan charcoal grilled pork chashu, kaiware radish sprouts, green onion and shredded spicy pepper – $13.80)
- Jewelry Bowl (diced sashimi, Japanese mint, daikon pickle and salmon roe over rice – $12.80)
- Mt. Fuji Volcano Alberta AAA Steak (tenderloin steak with fried onions served with wasabi daikon radish sauce, Japanese pepper and garlic butter soy sauce on ah ot stone plate made from Mt. Fuji rocks – $22.80)
- Pressed Avocado Sushi (avocado sushi served with a Japanese citrus seaweed sauce – $11.80)
In true izakaya fashion though, most of the dishes are small.
This isn’t great when you’re paying $13 for a few slices of thinly-sliced rare beef tataki or $8 for 2 mozzarella katsus, costs can add up quickly (though that’s also true for most Japanese restaurants).
My favourite dishes of the night was the ramen salad, dorinku ramen, and tuna avocado.
I think the ramen salad, ramen and jewelry bowl are well-priced for the portion size you get.
I also thought the dorinku ramen had a fantastic broth and really good noodle texture, though light on toppings and doesn’t look too special.
The Mt. Fuji hot stone beef also got great reviews from my friend Fred who is sometimes hard to please – food-wise.
Not a lot of restaurants in Edmonton offer pressed sushi (actually, I think just Dorinku and the new JOEY Bell Tower downtown) so it’s nice to try this different style of sushi.
The beef tataki was nothing special (have had better, and it’s pricy for what you get).
The tuna tataki was good but I’d recommend the tuna avocado instead. The citrus seaweed sauce in the tuna avocado is fantastic – especially when combined with the fresh sashimi and avocado. Presentation-wise it’s a bit weird – just some tuna slices next to avocado slices slathered in black (the sauce) but taste-wise I loved it!
The mozzarella katsu was also nothing really special and I think I prefer regular chirashi bowls over the Dorinku jewelry bowl – though that could be because I was totally full off all the other food by the time I got to the jewelry bowl, lol.
The food was a bit slow coming out (we ordered two of the ramen bowls and one came out nearly 20 minutes before the second bowl did) but the servers were very friendly and our drinks were always being topped up.
Here are some photos from the dinner:
Overall, I think Dorinku is a great addition to Whyte Avenue/Old Strathcona and a great izakaya addition to Edmonton!
I thought the food was good and the atmosphere even better.
They’ve also got a lot of dishes unique to them. I expect we will see even more unique dishes when they launch their regular, non-soft opening menu.
Service when we went was a bit slow, but our servers were very friendly.
We also thought price points were good overall (some dishes give you more value than others) but overall it wasn’t anymore expensive than trips to other Edmonton Japanese spots!
If you’re looking for a traditional Japanese restaurant with a large selection of sushi (rolls), this is not the place for you. But if you’re looking for a lively, fun restaurant with some unique Japanese tapas style dishes and a variety of drinks, head here! If you’re also looking for more ramen in the city, Dorinku’s (both soup form and salad form) are great ones to try.
I’ve since returned to Dorinku and have tried their Pressed Salmon Sushi a bunch of times.
IT IS A MUST ORDER!!
Check out my friend Cindy’s review of Dorinku here.
Can’t wait to keep on coming back!!