Though his parents were Korean, J-Pan owner and founder Daniel Dokko grew up in Brazil, which has a substantial Japanese population, and as a youngster he dreamed of opening his own Japanese restaurant. After working his way through the ranks at Orlando’s famed Amura, Dokko opened J-Pan in Sarasota in 2008. In addition to extended stays in Kyoto, he’s traveled the world experiencing international approaches to sushi.
Start Clean “Ginger is used to clean the palate between bites, because when you’re eating a beautiful, fresh fish, you want to taste the flavor or texture.”
The Sashimi Test “I like to start by ordering sashimi; that way you can see the skill of the chef—the presentation, the cuts. A good sushi chef never gives you a piece of fish with crushed fiber. It’s always going to be the right texture.”
Yes, It’s Fresh “Don’t [insult a sushi chef by asking] if the fish is fresh. The fish is always fresh today, or I wouldn’t be serving it.”
Keeping it Real “At most restaurants here, it’s not real wasabi—it’s horseradish. But the chef usually has real wasabi available. The taste is a little sweeter, and it’s grated.”
Take a Chance “The best way to experience eating is to try something new. I went to Korea last summer, and I had live octopus. I will remember that for the rest of my life. It was a good experience. Find something you might think is weird, and just try it.”
Ask Away “I encourage people to sit at the bar and ask the chef questions. A good restaurant, it’s not about the fish—every restaurant here gets the same fish from the same places. Experience the attitude of the chef.”