Seafood salad at the trendy Doraku.
Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, third floor / 922-3323
With its patina of sophistication and cuisine designed to be trendy but nonthreatening, Doraku Sushi is bound to find its place on the 20- and 30-something late-night circuit, with plenty of casual sushi and appetizer offerings, such as crispy calamari ($7.50) served with a curry sauce or deep-fried rock shrimp ($10.25) to share while sipping sake overseen by sake sommelier Adrian Najara.
The restaurant is the creation of Kevin Aoki, who learned the ropes of the restaurant biz at his father Rocky Aoki's Benihana of Tokyo restaurants. The generational differences are there, but what they have in common is the idea of bringing fun and familiarity with a hint of exoticism to the dining experience.
Doraku Sushi's Pan-Asian cuisine is infused with the Latin flavors of South Beach, where the first restaurant opened six years ago. This is apparent in a salmon roll spiced with jalapeno ($6.75) and an evening entree of Asia de Cuba-inspired churrasco steak ($21.95), handily sliced to share. The steak, served with rice and a vegetable sauté, is topped with a tame layer of a green chimichurri-style sauce, mostly comprising a mild purée of parsley and vinegar.
Along with the steak, my favorite dish was the Peking duck ($22.50) with a crisp, though some would say dry, exterior. I liked it because it eliminated the duck's greasiness without turning the skin rubbery.
Those trying to avoid eating creatures of land and air can opt for seafood entrees of scallops ($21.95), salmon teriyaki ($18.25), seared ahi ($21.25), Chilean sea bass ($23.75), opakapaka ($23.25) or mahimahi ($21.25). I thought the sushi and raw fish offerings were the weakest aspect of the menu, but sushi rolls are colorful and fun, and sometimes, when you're drinking with friends, that's all you want.
Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; 5 p.m. to midnight Sundays to Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Dinner for two about $40 to $60 without drinks.