I’ll always have a soft spot for Dragon King’s Daughter, the offspring of a long, lost favorite, Maido Essential Japanese.
When former Maido owner Toki Masubuchi opened the original Dragon King’s Daughter, or “DKD,” she took with her a few of the favorite maki rolls and happy hour specials. She would then open a DKD in New Albany with a slightly different menu, and it did as well as the Highlands location.
Now, Dragon King’s Daughter in New Albany has taken a step up, reopening a few blocks away in a larger space and adding a few extra touches. Based on a visit there, it was a fine step up.
The new DKD New Albany is split into two different dining experiences — one, to the right as you enter the foyer from West First Street downtown, is a fairly basic, traditional dining area.
The other, which you reach by hanging a sharp left, is a bar area with a lounge space and a robata grill with seating for about a dozen.
The bar area has a modern feel, trimmed with plenty of black and exposed brick, as well as exposed ceilings (painted black, of course). There are several curtained booths along one wall for a little extra privacy, and a long bar with full bar service and a cocktail program, along with 10 taps pouring craft beer.
The centerpiece is the robata grill, which is not exactly like the hibachi grills one finds in most Japanese restaurants in that the food is prepared over hot coals. Yes, the food is prepared while you watch, but while I was there, I didn’t see anyone make a volcano out of an onion.
And while at a hibachi grill, you’d usually have a choice of chicken, steak, shrimp or veggie, and the usual egg fried rice and grilled vegetables, this grill experience is a bit different.
At DKD New Albany, there are multiple options under each heading, such as beef tenderloin tataki, pork with asparagus and bacon, chicken tsukune, which is served in meatball form with quail eggs, shisho and more.
And the robata menu also offers nine veggie options, from avocado to mushrooms to atsuage tofu.
The main restaurant menu features plenty of sushi options, including dozens of signature rolls, nigiri and sashimi, plus a large selection of “Share Plates,” “Quick Plates” and ramen choices. There’s also a happy hour menu that goes daily from 3-6 p.m.
I stopped in for happy hour, intent on trying something old and something new. I hadn’t had one of the original Maido-era rolls in some time (I gravitate toward other choices when I go to DKD in the Highlands), so I ordered a Sabor con Fuego roll as well as a plate of veggie gyoza from the Share Plates menu.
The gyoza was a reasonable $4, so I expected four to five pieces. Instead, I was served seven lightly fried dumplings, drizzled with spinach vinaigrette, spicy mustard and chili oil, a familiar combination. The mustard, spicy and reminiscent of Colman’s, is still just as delicious as I remembered, and the dumplings were stuffed with minced veggies.
The roll was next, and again I was transported back. The tightly wrapped “makizushi” roll was packed with plenty of diced tuna mixed with chopped jalapeño peppers, and topped with a “fiery drizzle,” per the menu. Not only was it specially priced as part of the happy hour menu ($6), it was as spicy as I remembered from Maido days.
That fiery drizzle surely packs some sizzle, and the jalapeños amp that up at times, even as the flavor of the fresh tuna manages to shine through the mix.
In trying something unfamiliar, I chose a Share Plate item called Drunken Chicken Tacos, not quite sure what to expect.
The result was a happy one — four small tacos were my reward, shells made of wonton and packed with pulled chicken steamed in sake, plus carrot, red onion, cabbage, cilantro and topped with a small slice of avocado.
The whole concoction is tossed in Japanese mayo and served cool for a refreshing surprise. It was clean and crunchy and, I have to say, simply a tasty, bright dish that felt like a healthful choice. I would get it again without hesitation.
I spoke with Masubuchi momentarily, however, and she suggested that my next visit be dedicated to having dinner at the grill. She said she and her staff have ended most nights sharing meals at the grill, and if the chef and staff endorse a specific menu, I’m going to listen. Count me in for dinner next time.
Dragon King’s Daughter, located at 129 W. Market St. in New Albany, is open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The robata grill opens daily at 5 p.m.