Beloved Japanese Restaurant DOMO Reopens With a Subdued Approach

“Back Up Again!” reads the Facebook post of beloved Japanese eatery Domo as they announced their re-opening earlier this month.

DOMO has resided on Osage Street for 26 years. But the Japanese Country Restaurant went viral in July 2021 when a TikTok video featured the restaurant’s ambient dining space and outdoor garden area that the owner, Gaku Homma, tends to himself. Although the video was only 40 seconds long, it caused hundreds of people to line up at DOMO’s door the next day, increasing the wait times from around 30 minutes to as long as three hours.

While the video most likely had pure intentions, it proved to be both a blessing and a curse for Homma, his staff and the restaurant. The overwhelming response to the video caused frustrations for customers and staff alike, leading the restaurant to be open only three days a week with a maximum capacity of 20 people. However, when the COVID-19 variant Omicron surged in January 2022, Domo closed its doors temporarily for an extended period.

Photo Courtesy of DOMO Japanese Country Restaurant via Facebook

While the decision to temporarily close the restaurant was made to protect the health and safety of the staff and its customers, Homma encouraged his supporters and customers that DOMO would return at some point in the future with the same quality and attention to its cuisine. During the closure, DOMO remained a site of serving the community domestically and abroad, including the Monthly Meals Project in Denver and Bilay House in Myanmar through one of its primary missions – “Dine at DOMO and Feed the World,” which echoes the ethos of simple Japanese dishes and uplifting communities. This was the foundation Homma reverted back to when thinking of the new restaurant concept in March of this year.

Although his life work is centered on Aikido, Homma wrote on Facebook, “It makes me smile and makes me feel warm in my heart that I can help people feel happy with what I cook and serve.” With this in mind, Homma’s plan for the reopening of DOMO follows a more lenient approach to the full-service restaurant with a smaller menu and new original recipes.

Photo Courtesy of DOMO Japanese Country Restaurant

The restaurant will still feature displays of historical artifacts, the Japanese garden and adjacent Aikido Nippon Kan. Restaurant goers will notice that the interior is immensely sustainable with wood sourced from as close as the trees in the Garden to upstream of Cherry Creek, piles of flagstone that were randomly on the property when it was purchased and even a beam from old high-rise building. All of these features come together to give the restaurant a weathered, rustic feeling that mimics the feeling of the food they serve.

Photo Courtesy of DOMO Japanese Country Restaurant via Facebook

At 73 years old, Homma recognizes that his age is a bit of a hindrance in his movements throughout the kitchen, but not in the quality of food he serves. With this re-opening, he asks customers to be understanding of the new small-scale operation, which will have a max dining capacity of 20.

DOMO is now open at 1365 Osage St., Denver, and it is open Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., for only lunch and walk-ins. DOMO advises its customers that the restaurant may close before 2 p.m., depending on the length of the waitlist.

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