Tender Mercy to add elevated sushi concept to back room

Dōzo, an elevated sushi concept, is being added to the back room of Tender Mercy in downtown Dayton with a grand opening planned for Tuesday, Aug. 29.

“Dōzo at Tender Mercy is not and cannot be another Midwestern sushi spot that offers ‘something for everyone,’ so guests shouldn’t expect egg rolls, tempura veggies or composed dishes with broadly Asian pretexts,” said Chris Dimmick, co-owner of Tender Mercy. “We’ve developed a menu and experience that is solely driven by the highest quality ingredients we can source, presented with an intentionality and creativity that honors and elevates them.”

The a la carte menu will be on steady rotation and a pre-fix tasting menu will highlight the chef’s very best expressions for those looking for a more traditional Omakase experience.

The new experience will be led by Chef Lawrence Hahm, a New York native most likely known in the Dayton area for making sushi with his family at Dorothy Lane Market.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

Hahm started cooking at a very young age. He learned basic knife skills and kitchen safety from his father in order to be able to cook for himself and his sister after school.

“Food was a very big passion for me,” Hahm said. “Food was a great medium for bringing our family together.”

After graduating from high school in 2010, he entered the restaurant industry a few years later at Bar Savona, a scratch Italian restaurant in New York. He recalled climbing through the ranks pretty quickly. After nearly two years, he left the fine dining world to help his parents pursue their next adventure — supermarket sushi.

His parents always had an entrepreneurial mind, but Hahm admitted he was surprised they wanted to do supermarket sushi. Hahm didn’t love working in the supermarket industry. He said his heart was in fine dining.

“Growing up it was unattainable for me,” Hahm said. “I wanted it to be attainable and the best way for me to obtain it was to actually make it.”

Hahm left the supermarket sushi world to work in another fine dining restaurant, Jean-Georges in New York. When he returned to Dayton, his parents were working for a sushi company that served Dorothy Lane Market. With Hahm’s help, his family eventually made sushi independently for Dorothy Lane Market.

One thing led to another and Hahm was connected with Dimmick. They worked together to flush out ideas for a new concept which, eventually led to Dōzo.

Hahm said it “still feels like a dream.”

“It’s absolutely true that none of this would be happening this way without (Hahm’s) talent and knowledge and passion, and most importantly his confidence and trust in us and in Dayton,” Dimmick said. “He wanted to get back here and do something special, and we’re just blessed to get to pursue that with him at Tender Mercy.”

The new concept will permanently take over all 38 seats in the back room at Tender Mercy. While all signature cocktails and menu programming from Tender Mercy will be available at Dōzo, the sushi experience will only be available with a reservation for the back room, Dimmick said.

“Dozo” is a versatile word in Japanese culture used to show hospitality, Hahm said. Its meaning translates to “please” or “help yourself” among others.

The owners of Tender Mercy admit they never intended to have a significant culinary component at the underground bar, but with this new addition they feel like they’re filling a gap in the market.

“Dōzo gives folks another reason to come visit and spend time in our space, to experience something that doesn’t currently exist in Dayton,” Dimmick said. “I think as a company, we’ve earned the trust of the community in Dayton to keep pushing the envelope a bit, and this is our next expression.”

Dōzo will be open 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Reservations are highly encouraged at www.tendermercy.com. Tender Mercy is located at 607 E. Third St., Dayton.

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