By Kevin Collison
Amante Domingo’s new restaurant, Noka, is a homage to his father based on his dying words two years ago.
“He was on his death bed and he told me he wanted to take me to a new sushi place in the Yucatan,” he said. “I built the restaurant he would have wanted to take me to.”
His father, Rob’s, memory is present throughout the new place located in Martini Corner at 334 E. 31st St. Shortly after his Dad died, the 150 year-old barn on the family farm outside St. Joseph collapsed.
“I wanted to grab as many things from the barn that were salvageable and build and sanctuary and celebrate who he was,” Domingo said.
His father ran a 150-acre farm raising organic produce for the local farmer’s market, and for a brief period, he operated a small organic restaurant in St. Joe.
Noka, the Japanese word for farmer, makes a strong aesthetic statement with a tranquil vibe. Large clay pots line the shelves usher Japanese design elements and timbers from the old barn introduce rural America.
Seating is communal with long tables inviting a sense of community and celebration of food. Domingo said his concept is “upscale dining with a nod to Asia.”
The menu includes Shitshitos, smoked beef heart; ribeye cap; wild bass, beggar’s duck and Kanpachi Sashimi, a seafood dish.
Domingo, who also founded the nearby The Russell at 3141 Main, began planning for Noka about nine months ago. It’s in the former Bond’s Chicken and Blues place and needed a lot of work to bring it up to speed. Noka opened April 1.
The experience he hopes it brings to diners is that of coming to a dinner party.
“It’s a beautiful contradiction of artful, playful and serious at the same time,” he said.
“I don’t consider myself to be a chef’s chef, I’m more about creating experiences.”
Hours are 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. A happy hour also runs from 4- 6 p.m.
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