The vibrant bar at Komodo Lounge in Dallas. (Photo by Kevin Marple)
Pop art murals by artist Mari Kim line the walls of Komodo's upstairs lounge in Dallas.(Photo by Kevin Marple)
Slip into a booth to enjoy bottle service, DJ sets, and sparkler parades. (Photo by Kevin Marple)
The Komodo Lounge's decor is inspired by salon opulence the night markets of Southeast Asia. (Photo by Kevin Marple)
The Pikachu cocktail is made with 818 reposado tequila, yuzu, ginger, wasabi, and honey. (photo by Ashley Estave) (Photo by Kevin Marple)
“I’m a freak about duck,” David Grutman of Groot Hospitality tells me. He’s waxing poetic about the Peking Duck at Komodo, his new 274-seat Southeast Asian restaurant and lounge in Deep Ellum. “We have the best duck in the world.” That duck—stuffed with a five-spice mix, dry-cured for six hours, wet-rubbed in a vinegar-based concoction, hung to air-dry on site overnight, and then roasted in plain view of the diners—is one reason people are talking about Komodo.
There are other reasons, too. The moment you step inside, you’re transported to Miami or Tokyo, or somehow both at once. Club music greets you. Your sleek half-moon booth awaits you like a hug. Bamboo plant sculptures, lit from within, grow from the floor up through the ceiling. The décor incorporates rich reds, the hue of the sun on the Japanese flag.
Even the trip to the bathroom is cool. You walk down a long, dark, mysterious hallway skirted with gauzy maroon curtains, past a hand-painted mural of a martial artist mid-jump kick, past various diners posing for Instagram photos, and then through the archway to the restroom where attendants stand prepared with everything from perfume to hair spray to lint rollers.
Grutman, who got his start in the Miami nightclub business, is more than just a freak about duck. In addition to his three nightclubs, the entrepreneur has two hotels and seven restaurants, with more in the works. On a few projects, his business partner is Pharell. He introduced Drake to Bad Bunny, and then the two artists went on to make MÍA together. The original Komodo, in Miami, was the highest-grossing restaurant in the country last year.
Point is, Grutman knows how to cultivate posh, so at Komodo, it’s no surprise that hitting the loo is a grand affair, that dishes arrive at the table topped with tiny scoops of caviar, or that the details of the second-story lounge—from the indoor-outdoor layout to the bottle service to pop art cartoon girls with giant eyes glowing from the walls—conspire to make you feel lucky to have been ushered in.
Like the Chinese BBQ pork ribs, the Japanese milk bread, the Korean fried chicken, the sushi menu, and the cherry blossom mural that covers a whole wall, that Peking Duck suits Komodo’s Southeast Asian theme, but you’ll see little Texas flourishes, too—plenty of Texas wagyu, for instance; local pastrami in the pastrami egg rolls; Texas quail with habanero honey; craft cocktails in cactus mugs. The Dude Ranch is Ranch Water with calamansi, a Southeast Asian citrus. The Pretty Fly For A Cacti—Patron Silver, prickly pear, and Sriracha—though grammatically iffy, delivers a pleasing spicy sweetness.
Komodo is a swanky Miami fever dream unfolding in Deep Ellum. With that second-floor lounge, you can make a whole night of it. At least stop in for a cocktail and a bathroom selfie.