A Miami nightlife staple has made its way to Dallas. Komodo, which is now open in the Epic, a mixed-use building that may or may not be in Deep Ellum, marries Asian cuisine with electronic and pop music.
Komodo is part of a small galaxy of “clubstaurants” developed by David Grutman and Chris Cuomo’s Groot Hospitality. In Miami, Groot owns the original Komodo, Swan, the Key Club, Papi Steak, and Strawberry Moon, which multi-platinum music producer Pharrell Williams is a partner in. And then there’s Gekkō, which Grutman co-owns Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny. Grutman is partnering with Williams again to open a resort near the Bahamas called Somewhere Else.
As Grutman’s resume may suggest, music plays a big role in his restaurants. “We love when people are singing along to the songs or grooving around,” says Grutman. “We like to create energy in our restaurants, but not to the level where you can’t have a conversation with someone, because that’s not a great experience.”
Of course, Komodo’s opening doesn’t come without controversy. With the influx of high-end restaurants by out-of-towners into the Epic, including La Neta y Cocina (with Mark Wahlberg at it’s opening) and Harper’s, some critics say these lounge-style eateries are pushing out local businesses and increasing rent in the neighborhood. The former no-man’s land just north of the Good Latimer Expressway and east of Downtown has seen its reputation established by no-holds-barred party joint Bottled Blonde and all its controversies in the past handful of years. Meanwhile, the Deep Ellum Foundation is pushing to get established local restaurants into the neighborhood, and to broaden the boundaries of where Deep Ellum starts and ends just a little.
“I like to think of [the Epic] as the ‘in-between area’ of Downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum,” says Grutman. “We’re not too much in the mix of things, but we’re part of the community. And I think it’s cool, because it’s an emerging area.”
One of Komodo’s Texas-exclusive cocktails is the Pretty Fly for a Cacti, a spin on a spicy margarita, flavored with Sriracha that is served in a festive, ceramic cactus. As for starters, the moneybag dumplings are a lush arrangement of four orange dumplings stuffed with pork, shrimp, tobiko, and sealed off with gold leaf. And a star on the starters menus is the lemon pepper quail, an exclusive to the Dallas location. The lemon pepper quail is coated with a crispy crunchy shell with a light wasabi flavoring, as well as a side of habanero honey.
Grutman wants Komodo Dallas to offer “a more robust steak program.” The restaurant has partnered with Wagyu Excelente Beef out of Midlothian to offer four different Texas wagyu steak plates, as well as a Japanese wagyu.
But the highlight of Komodo is most certainly the crispy-skinned roast duck It comes served with a stack of thin pancakes, so you can easily stuff each of these sheets with tender meat, as well as the cucumber, scallion, and housemade hoisin sauce.
There are vibrant red lights throughout the space, artsy floral patterns on the walls and metallic orbs on the ceiling, giving it a festive atmosphere. During a recent visit, the upstairs lounge was under construction but appears as though it will be spacious enough for customers to dance and order cocktails with light bites. Upon its opening, Grutman plans to host local musicians for live performances, as well as DJ sets. While there may be some skepticism from a certain cohort of Dallasites about a clubstaurant in this neighborhood, Grutman’s Komodo promises to add to, not take away from, the area’s character.
“We care about the community and not just being some outside brand that just happens to be a transplant,” says Grutman. “We really embrace the fact that we’re in Dallas, and this is our new home.”