It's hard to enter a restaurant experience with no expectations. In this age of breathless coverage of openings, when a chef's resume gets scrutinized and people bring a NSA analyst's intensity to studying Facebook and Instagram for hints of what to expect, restaurants, particularly those that open inside the Loop, don't usually fly under the radar.
Yet, that's more or less what's happened with Dosi, the newly opened Korean tapas restaurant that, despite a prime location on Shepherd across from Triniti, has received little fanfare, save an early CultureMap article. Curious, I rounded up two friends and visited the restaurant last Saturday night with almost no preconceived notion about what was to come.
Dosi chef Jordan Asher isn't surprised by the lack of buzz. "I kinda expected that," he tells CultureMap. "The names attached to this restaurant don't have much pull."
Even more surprising is that Asher, who recently worked as the chef de cuisine at Mark's, had never prepared Korean food prior to signing on at Dosi.
"I enjoy a challenge. Something new, something exciting," Asher says.
"We're just trying to make good food. We just want to create a unique experience for our guests."
He worked with owner An Vo to develop the menu and put himself on a crash course of studying and eating on Long Point. A meal at Korean Garden helped put Asher on the right track. He got his first taste of bossam, made there with the traditional pork belly and at Dosi with pork shank. "It's an impressive amount of food they give you," Asher says.
Shopping at Korean supermarket H-Mart has also proven helpful, as the store's food court always has something new to try.
From there, he used the techniques he's spent years developing to adapt the Korean flavors into a lighter alternative. Will it be sour, funky or spicy enough for Long Point devotees? Certainly not, which is one problem Asher says Dosi has already run into.
"Some people just hate it," he concedes. "We're not going to make everyone happy," with Dosi's hybrid approach, but Asher says he's committed to "find the middle ground between creativity and traditional flavors."
At our dinner, three of us sampled seven dishes from the menu. We found a new restaurant that's surprisingly sure footed for being so new. Among the highlights, lamb collar in a spicy sauce with rice dumplings, clams steamed in a kimchi broth served with crispy rice and a take on Korean fried chicken that nailed the right sweet-spicy balance while maintaining serious crispiness.
The KFC breaks with tradition by being battered, but the flavor is right on, which more or less describes what Asher and fellow chef Daniel Toro (formerly of Just Dinner) are going for at Dosi. An hour later when I shared the leftovers with a friend who's a devoted Korean food eater, she conceded that Dosi's KFC "doesn't suck," which constitutes high praise from a normally skeptical diner.
Dosi also bills itself as a soju bar, but that aspect feels a bit unfinished. We tried a flight of four infused sojus but had trouble distinguishing flavors like pineapple and grapefruit from each other. Far more successful are the blended soju drinks that have a more fruit-forward flavor. They're essentially soju smoothies and, at $25 for a 700 ml serving, functionally the size of a bottle of wine for an eminently reasonable price.
Asher is happy to hear the food has been well received.
"We're just trying to make good food," he says. "We just want to create a unique experience for our guests."
Dosi is open for dinner Mondays through Wednesdays from 5:30 to 10 p.m. and Thursdays through Saturdays from 5:30 to midnight.