Domo Arigato for opening at Van Aken!

Domo Yakitori and Sushi By Chef Carmen Paponetti

“Domo” translates from Japanese to English in the simplest terms as “Very”. So, my review of Chef Carmen Paponetti’s new venture in Shaker Heights is very good, very fresh and very much the new place to try while at the Van Aken district.

What you’ll see on the menu: Sushi rolls, Nigiri, Sashimi, vegetarian options of rolls, Yakitori (chicken-focused street food), vegetarian options of rolls, and a tofu option served in a bento-box style.

Get to know the chef!

Carmen's philosophy and quotable quotes:

You listen to the food and it tells you what to do.

You just are comforted by a perfect batch of sushi rice and the way it just spreads over the nori smoothly.

As a French-trained chef, Carmen seemed unlikely to morph into the Sushi world but that’s exactly what he did. Shortly after graduating from culinary school in Pittsburgh, he got his first job at the Ritz downtown where he was able to pick up a mix of banquet hours and at the Sushi bar. He followed his new passion of sushi to the brand new (at the time) Parallax restaurant in Tremont where he was the part-time sushi assistant. As Carmen put it, “Opportunities for sushi kept coming my way” and he took it as a sign to keep going. And soon the awards started accumulating for Best Head Sushi Chef, Cleveland Scene Best Sushi of the Year, and most importantly to Carmen, a 2008 Zagat Outstanding Sushi rating.

Prior to opening up Domo in Van Aken, Carmen took over a long-standing Willowick restaurant, The Cabin, and has practiced out a varied menu of sushi, more traditional American Cuisine, and Steak. When he purchased the restaurant, he easily took it to new heights, all without closing it down even for a day once ownership transferred. Fate soon intervened though to entice him to open a completely new location and menu (focused on his knowledge of Sushi and Japanese street food).

Encouraged by his lovely wife and his restaurant friends, he sat down immediately to fill out an inquiry form and be a part of the new scene once Van Aken started its phased opening and food stalls. But it wasn’t an easy process and Carmen had never been through bringing an entirely new concept to the market. Without a business partner or seasoned expertise, Carmen himself admits he had unnecessary delays because of his learning process and COVID-19 didn’t help either. However, I’d say it was worth the wait. Domo joins an extraordinary line up on new Van Aken food ventures this summer including Lox, Stock and Brisket (Opening Aug 1) and the Old Brooklyn Cheese shop (coming soon). And he specifically designed his kitchen so you can watch and admire the delicate process of putting the meals together. It’s a family affair vs a fast-food experience.

The menu as it stands right now is a robust one filled with a mixed balance of Sushi, Japanese street food (think easily carried food on a stick) and new delights like his cabbage pancake. However, Carmen could see more food to come on the menu and Domo being a pilot that expands to a bigger presence that focuses even more deeply on Japanese street food.

Guests can enjoy Japanese beers, limited wine selection and cocktails with a Japanese twist along with their meal. Even though Domo has only been open for a week or so, the line is already long with inquisitive guests eager to try his legendary fresh sushi and more.

So, let’s talk cabbage pancakes. I know it doesn’t immediately grab you……but it should. For those familiar with the Cabin’s menu (Carmen's other restaurant), you've most likely seen a cabbage pancake on their appetizer menu. But I think the cabbage pancake you can get a Domo easily dominated my dinner as the best thing we ordered and even exceeded the one I sampled at the Cabin a few weeks ago. To put it simply, it’s a mixture of fried noodles and cabbage slaw at the bottom, with a fried egg and two slices of bacon in the middle and topped with a more traditional bread-like pancake. In other words, it’s a deconstructed breakfast pancake with sweet and savory and crunchy textures. Carmen tops it with a umami of All the best elements you can imagine for your lunch or dinner if you try it.

For the future- Carmen could envision offering different cooking nights to educate people on the interesting ingredients used at Domo and how to properly roll and make sushi. Bring it on!

Domo Yakitori and Sushi

Van Aken Food Hall 3401 Tuttle Road

Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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