Dolma Turning Restaurant Into Event Centre, Adding Sushi Bar To The Cafe

A tasting and guest chef event at 2nd Floor At Dolma Food restaurant last year. Image: Submitted

MONCTON – Dolma Food is shaking things up, turning the 2nd Floor restaurant into an event centre. Dolma’s cafe across the street will serve as a sushi bar with Japanese street-food after hours.

Marketing Coordinator Jon Stephenson said the move will allow the grocery store business to continue providing quality food without having to focus on creating a high-end restaurant atmosphere day in and day out.

“To be honest, turning the page on this [restaurant] piece here and putting it into something that’s more reasonable in terms of how much effort and time that we have to put into it, I think is going to really help with the other components that we’re already doing really well with,” Stephenson said about the two-year-old restaurant.

The cafe at 236 St. George St., which seats around 20 people inside and 20 at the patio in the summer, remains open but its layout is being changed to reflect the new concept. It will be ready for opening in less than two weeks.

With the change, customers can still get their coffee and pastries on weekdays. But the addition of the fully licensed sushi bar means they can also grab fresh sushi during lunch and get drinks after hours.

The cafe and bar will open longer in the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Dolma is hoping it will be a place for people to relax while trying some “really cool, unique sushi,” Stephenson said.

“We want people to really try those things out and by using local ingredients, bring a spin of what we’re known about. We’re going to try to do, every week, stuff that people may not have ever tasted.”

Stephenson said those who already like Dolma’s take-out offerings from the grocery store will see an upgraded version of them at the cafe and bar.

“This is basically where our chef is working out of most of the time. [The sushi is] made right in front of you when you come in, when you order, or when you call or you order online,” he said. “I guess it gives it a bit of a Laundromat [Espresso Bar] vibe, with the added sushi aspect.”

Meanwhile, the restaurant space on the second floor of the grocery store will host Dolma’s in-house events and can be rented out to businesses, organizations, musicians or wedding parties. The rental fee is $1,500 a day for the main space that seats 100 people. That fee acts as a credit that can be used to pay for catering, alcohol and service. Any food in the space has to be provided by Dolma but clients can staff their own event as long as all insurance requirements are met.

Stephenson said after having successful wine, beer and food tasting events, often with guest chefs, Dolma wants to help build the foodie community by hosting more events like that. Having events is also a more guaranteed income for the business.

“[It could be] local chefs that we bring in that they can collaborate together, or collaborate with people we have in-house, do something that’s really unique that we can have one-night-only special menu focusing on local food or the type of cuisine that that chef might be doing,” he said.

A private room for about 20 people on the second floor is also available for rent, in addition to the rooftop patio, which will still operate as a full-service restaurant in the summer. Having learned from the high traffic last year, this year Dolma will focus on improving the service for the patio early so it will be ready for the summer.

The grocery store component of the business won’t be affected, but Dolma plans to launch a home-delivery service for its online orders early this year. It also plans to launch a meal prep service that was delayed since September.

Stephenson says it’s important to focus on Dolma’s strengths moving forward and not worry about the closure of the restaurnant.

“I don’t think it should be seen as any negative turning this [restaurant] into an event space. I think it’s putting our focus into the areas that we’re really good at.”