Drunk Fish has the ability to take customers halfway around the world.
The narrow, two-story restaurant with only 19 seats is decorated with murals and printed cloths, giving the customer a sense that he has stepped outside of the Arboretum and into an eatery in an alleyway in Seoul, South Korea, or Tokyo, Japan.
"We started small. That's the way we like it," said Sun Park, who owns the four-year-old restaurant with her husband, Jong Hwa Park.
The Parks serve a fusion of Japanese and Korean cuisine. Jong Hwa's teriyaki sauce—a tangy, soy sauce–based meat-and-vegetable marinade—is rooted in Japanese culinary tradition but has garlic, apples, carrots and more in addition to the customary ingredients.
Jong Hwa also makes Japanese staple nigiri sushi—or fish on an oblong bed of rice—as well as the more Americanized specialty rolls, from the oft-seen Rainbow Roll to the more distinctive Mexican Roll.
The Korean influence can be seen in the bulgogi—a spicy, marinated meat—and in the ramen, of which Drunk Fish offers a variety.
"A lot of the younger [customers] like Ramen," Sun said.
With some of the ramen dishes being topped with nontraditional ingredients, such as potato chips and cheese, it is easy to see why.
Before opening Drunk Fish, Jong Hwa and Sun ran a formal wear shop where they used to split the duties. At Drunk Fish, the roles are more precise: Sun takes the orders and interacts with customers, and Jong Hwa prepares all the meat, marinades and sushi.
Although the name implies otherwise, the eatery does not serve alcohol, though customers are welcome to bring their own.
Secret in the sauce
Co-owner Jong Hwa Park has made an art out of the creation of his teriyaki sauce, which is used on meats and vegetables.
It takes him seven to eight hours to make the marinade, which derives its tanginess from soy sauce and sweetness from natural ingredients such as apple, pineapple and carrot.
"You can taste the difference between [Drunk Fish's teriyaki] and typical teriyaki sauce at most restaurants where it's [made out of] a powder," said David Gross, a Drunk Fish regular and store manager at Sunglass Hut, located across the walkway from Drunk Fish.
Drunk Fish has a variety of specialty sushi rolls, most of which are pictured on the restaurant's wall, so customers can see what they're ordering.
Customer favorites include:
Drunk Fish Roll: Crab, avocado and cucumber topped with freshwater eel and avocado ($11.99)
Caterpillar Roll: Eel, crab and cucumber topped with avocado ($10.50)
Samurai Roll: Spicy tuna, smoked salmon, avocado, sweet potato, crab and cream cheese wrapped in battered and fried seaweed, or nori tempura ($11.99)
Drunk Fish's ramen is nothing like the packaged noodles some college students seem to live off of. The broth is darker brown in color and packed with broccoli, carrots, cabbage and onions.
Served in a big bowl, the ramen comes in mild, medium or hot spiciness ($6.99–$13.99). Curry, green tea or cheese can be added for 99 cents each.
Drunk Fish also serves udon noodles, which are thicker than ramen and served in a vegetable broth ($6.99–$8.99).