Chef Chris Polidoro has successfully opened his much anticipated restaurant, Doro, in Neptune Beach in the Beaches Town Center area. In a cozy space between North Beach Fish Camp and Mezza Restaurant formerly occupied by Tama’s Sushi you will find Doro, with casual and clean, white and gray furnishings and a mere twelve tables. You’ll want to stay, as everything about it exudes elevation.
Chef Polidoro is the former personal chef of national television journalist Matt Lauer. Polidoro set his sights on opening a restaurant in Florida. When space became available just steps from the beach, he stepped in to make his dream a reality. Polidoro brings with him his highly qualified wife, Jessica, to run the front of the house. The pair make quite a team and we are delighted to welcome them to the First Coast.
We have been waiting to check out Doro when it opened and somehow forgot and found ourselves heading west to go over the river as we were trying to come up with a new restaurant to try. We had a moment of, “Wait a minute! Doro!” and swung a u-turn to go east to the ocean.
When we got to Doro it was a full house. With 12 or so tables, it’s a good idea to plan ahead in case there is a wait. The design is beautiful, with polished cement floors and walls of white and gray. The ethos of the place is serene and the space feels casual but classy. You’ll feel comfortable in boat shoes, shorts and a collared shirt or dressed up for a night on the town. Because the restaurant is made up of clean, hard surfaces there is a surprising amount of noise, given the size, that echos around when it is at capacity. As we enjoyed our meal and languished at our windowside table, the restaurant began emptying out and the noise level dropped considerably.
We’re told the menu at Doro will change regularly based on the season and freshly available ingredients. The menu might just be one of the smallest in town with just 8 first course and 8 second course options.
For our meals we chose Heirloom Tomatoes($12) ricotta salata, lemon and mint and Seared Shrimp($12), curdled egg and sea beans. The tomatoes were simply beautiful! The whole heirloom tomato dish was perfect. It was well balanced, with the lemon so subtle, adding just a tiny touch of tangy sweetness and the cheese laid over top of obvious high quality. The seared shrimp dish was inventive and executed well. While curdling is often something to avoid in the kitchen, curdled egg is a variation of scrambled egg using a French technique where cream is added to the egg. The seared shrimp over curdled egg with sea beans was a salty-savory dish, with the eggs a soft and smooth consistency. We give Doro big points for pushing Jax diners to be open to a new way of experiencing something familiar. If our food scene is to grow we need more restaurants to gradually push their guests to try new things.
For our second (main) courses we went with the Grilled Snapper($25), raw tomato, brussel sprout leaves and roasted olives and Duck Breast($28), carrot puree, honshemiji mushrooms, nectarines . The grilled snapper was served with the skin on. The skin of the fish was perfectly seasoned and really elevated the experience. The filet was expertly prepared, full of flavor. The roasted olives gave the dish that little something extra. All of the pieces worked together. My dining partner commented that I had picked the “yoga beach lady” special. If eating like a yoga beach lady is wrong, I don’t want to be right. The duck breast was prepared equally well. As an incredibly picky lover of duck, it can at times be hard to find a well prepared duck breast in Jax. Doro gets the job done. The perfectly cooked duck with carrot puree is an ideal marriage of flavors. Honshemiji mushrooms are smaller, but similar in flavor to oyster mushrooms. They lend a texture to the duck dish that brings it up a notch. The roasted nectarines provide a pop of tartness. Savory duck meets sweet carrot puree meets earthy mushroom which collides with the tart nectarine which all come together to create a dish that delights every tastebud!
Now for the one thing I know Jax diners will complain about. Portion size. When Moxie Kitchen and Cocktails opened people complain incessantly about their portion sizes. To this day, 3 years later we still hear people complain about their portion size. Restaurant Doro’s portions are similar. Folks in Jax need to get over the need for portion sizes so big that you have to either gorge yourself or take half the meal home in a box. We were pleased with our meals and given the portion sizes we did not feel bloated or overly full. We felt satisfied, as though we had eaten just the right amount of an amazing meal. And the thing is, that’s how fine dining works. The portions are not huge. You pay for fresh food, prepared perfectly, and excellent service. That is exactly what we found at Restaurant Doro.
For dessert, there were five choices, two of them being house made ice cream or sorbet. That left us with three baked or prepared desserts. From the menu alone it seemed like dessert was perhaps an afterthought, but in the interest of being thorough we decided to try it anyway. We chose the toasted angel cake, salted butter and fresh fruit jam ($8) and double chocolate, souffle and mousse ($10). The angel cake is a wedge slice of cake which has been toasted and slathered with salted butter. We really were not fans. It was just okay. Not a lot was happening flavorwise, and the amount of salt on the cake was overwhelming. The toasting added a nice texture, but it was just kind of bland and way too salty. The jam was more like a thin sauce and some berries. The double chocolate dessert is a duo- a chocolate souffle and a scoop of chocolate mousse. This had a deep chocolate flavor. While it was good, it was such a tiny serving. It was almost laughable to pay $10 for a couple bites of mousse and a couple bites of souffle. In fact we actually did laugh a little when it arrived at the table. It was maybe 4 bites total. It’s week one so everything isn’t going to be perfect. As great as the rest of the menu is we’re sure over time they’ll evolve a dessert menu that guests will enjoy.
We’ve visited a ton of restaurants during their first couple of weeks in business. Most of the time even in fine dining we’ve found the servers don’t really know the menu. Our server at Restaurant Doro knew it backwards and forwards. We intentionally ask a lot of questions, both so that we have some background and info to share in the review and also to see if the staff actually knows and cares about what they’re serving. Our server answered every single question in a way that shared knowledge and passion about each dish on offer. The level of service we received was top notch. It was attentive and caring without being pretentious.
The beautiful space, delicious seasonal menu, and excellent service are where Doro shines.
All in all, Restaurant Doro is a welcome addition to the fine dining scene in Jax. The food is prepared expertly with the use of real food whose flavors elevate each other. The service is superb, with knowledgeable wait staff to help guide you to your next bite. It turns out the Polidoros’ dream is a beautiful space with even more beautiful food. The next time you are looking for somewhere to commemorate a special occasion this should be the spot.