UNIVERSITY PARK -- The bustling University Park area is going a bit more international early next year as it welcomes its newest restaurant.
JPan restaurant will open its second location next to Blaze Pizza in the District at UTC across from The Mall at University Town Center. Head chef and owner of JPan Daniel Dokko signed a lease for the 1,500-square-foot property in August.
Dokko and his former wife, Jane, previously owned and operated a JPan on Lakewood Ranch Main Street but closed it in 2013. Ever since, Dokko said when he's catered events in East Manatee County, people have asked when he'll return.
The JPan restaurant at 3 Paradise Plaza in Sarasota opened about seven years ago and offers a variety of sushi rolls, snow crab claws and traditional Japanese dishes such as Katsu and teriyaki chicken.
Dokko hopes the new JPan Restaurant will be open by February. He will be the head chef and general manager to ensure the restaurant is fully up to his standards. He also wants to oversee the menu so the University Park location will hone in on traditional Japanese cooking techniques and recipes.
"I want to provide more of the cultural experience," Dokko said. "So you'll see master chefs that really know what they're doing." The University Park location will also offer a happy hour every day.
Dokko's parents are Korean but he was born and raised in Brazil. He moved to Orlando where he worked in "some of the best Japanese restaurants," he said. As soon as he saw Sarasota's beauty and waterfront location, he knew it was the perfect place to open JPan Restaurant.
After hearing the feedback from East Manatee County customers and being approached by Benderson last year about opening another location, he scoped out several properties in downtown Sarasota and other areas. The University Park location was "the best I found," Dokko said.
Though Dokko is keeping most of the new location's specials under wraps for now, he did reveal plans to use white charcoal, or robata, on the grill. Morsels of seafood or meat are cooked over the robata. Dokko said it comes directly from Japan and elevates the final product.
"It burns at a higher temperature and seals the flavor in the meat," Dokko said. The rest of the menu at the University Park JPan Restaurant will be similar to the Sarasota location.
JPan Restaurant's neighbors at University Park are excited to see Dokko's establishment heading their way.
"It just helps elevate the guests' awareness of what's in the area," said Blaze Pizza operating partner Laurie Ruggles. "New restaurants help people find us. I'm all for it."
Dokko won't bring Paradise Plaza staff to University Park and estimates he'll need to hire about 14 more people. Interested applicants can email Dokko at email@example.com.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.