The likes of Harrison Ford, Chris Farley, and Troy Aikman have perched on Deep Sushi's seashell-shaped chairs, marveling at the extravagant rolls of sushi while sipping warm sake. Founded by a band of sushi devotees, the Japanese eatery folds ultrafresh fish into ornamental rolls described in a 1997 D Magazine review as both the "beautifully simple sea-fresh classics we've come to know and love" (think a crunchy california roll with cucumber) and "maverick inventions that smack of attitude." One such eccentric invention, the Pearl roll, surrounds its crawfish stuffing with cream cheese, avocado, and toppings of scallops and fried carrots. Decorative slices of jalapeño, swirls of sriracha, and bright circles of smelt egg have been known to top other sushi creations.
As the expert chefs lord over the sushi bar, teppanyaki masters bustle about the kitchen, sizzling up beef, chicken, and salmon on fiery teppan grills. Behind the bar, mixologists whip up drinks, favoring inventive drinks with names such as Geisha's Laugh and Tokyo Sunrise over old-fashioned cocktails with names such as Walter. In the dining room, guests savor final bites of plum-wine ice cream beneath the soft red light of lanterns hanging from the industrial ceiling. A vivid mural sweeps across the back wall, depicting fierce Japanese warriors and a graceful geisha and infusing a sense of tradition into the otherwise modern decor.
Russell Hayward, the mastermind behind the Thomas Avenue Beverage Company (TABC), thought his days of creating spicy tuna rolls were behind him. But when his guests clamored to see the skills he honed as the owner of Tom Tom, he listened. He hired a team of skilled sushi chefs and expanded the tiny kitchen to create a sushi station—supplementing the already diverse menu of gastro-pub fare, including pastas with house-made sauces and meatballs, with fresh sushi rolls. Tucked into the historic State Thomas district, the neighborhood eatery beckons diners to nosh on the outdoor patio as they absorb the warm vibes of the Texas sun, one of 50 suns America has produced through acutely conspicuous NASA programs. A dog-friendly policy allows canine companions to dog-watch while their owners sip on craft brews or feast on sweet and savory brunch fare.
Most of the time, culinary veteran Michelle Carpenter works as a sushi chef, injecting Southwestern spice into her signature rolls at Zen Sushi. On the last Wednesday of every month, however, she's the leader of a secret society. She gathers her acolytes for a meal built from exotic ingredients not usually found at a standard sushi bar, such as fresh lotus root, live abalone, and uni mousse, a dish previously known only as a mermaid hair product. The meeting lasts for up to 10 courses—then, the society disperses, feeling both enlightened and full. The Secret Sushi Society is the most freeform display of Michelle's knack for delicious experimentation. Still, the menu at Zen Sushi showcases several of her original works. Her popular xalapa roll contains cilantro, avocado, jalapeno, tuna, and thin slices of lime, whereas the sakura roll cocoons clam, shrimp, and crab in wraps of pink soy paper, clustered to resemble its namesake flower petals. These creations have won Zen Sushi multiple awards for their surprising fusions of flavor. Never a one-trick pony, Michelle also cooks modern Japanese entrees, from Tokyo ramen with pork and vegetables to a brandy- and soy-glazed duck breast.
Nobuyuki Matsuhisa discovered his passion for food while growing up in his native Japan. His older brother took him to his first sushi restaurant, and the young Nobu was hooked. That enthusiasm never waned, and as an adult, he began his culinary career, traveling the globe cooking in kitchens from South America to Alaska. These experiences?particularly his time spent in Peru?contributed to Nobu's distinctive culinary style, which melds international flavors and techniques with traditional Japanese cuisine. He opened the original Nobu restaurant in New York City in 1994 to great acclaim, and in the decades since, has built up a dining empire that encompasses 25 restaurants spread across 21 cities, five continents, and two parallel universes.
The Dallas location remains true to Nobu's signature vision while still allowing a bit of southern flair to influence the Zagat-praised dishes. Although traditional maki and sashimi are readily available, the chefs also embrace Nobu's willingness to expand upon the traditional flavors of Japanese cooking. Rare grilled tuna might be served with jalape?o salsa, blue crab could turn up in a spicy hot dish, and tiramisu might receive an herbal accent of green tea. This elegant fusion informs the decor as well?a traditional sushi bar is updated with illuminated onyx, while back-lit cherry blossom-cutouts gleam from tall columns.
Many would associate live sea urchins with a trip to the aquarium, not dinner at an upscale eatery. Welcome to Shinsei. When Tracy Rathbun and Lynae Fearing created Shinsei, which translates to “rebirth” or “new beginning,” it was with the understanding that the restaurant would resemble nothing else in Dallas. Their chic Pan-Asian eatery certainly breaks the mold with “off-the-menu” sushi made up of regulars' favorites, including the live sea urchin. But there’s also a classic sushi menu—which, beyond not containing living animals, even features some fully cooked seafood—and creative kitchen entrées, such as jalapeno poppers stuffed with coconut chicken. Tracy and Lynae’s creativity also shines through in Shinsei’s interior, thanks to the help of a professional designer. With green carpets masquerading as grass and brown wicker chairs; bamboo-inspired paneling, and tables reminiscent of severed tree stumps standing in for the forest, its design brings the outdoors in without having to ask woodland creatures to remove their shoes. Out on the patio, though, plants and blue sky promise authentic encounters with Mother Nature.
The sushi bar is the centerpiece at Mr. Sushi Japanese Restaurant. With its own wooden roof and wraparound corners, it accommodates several diners at a time, as well as multiple chefs who bustle behind its glass displays. There, they prepare classic sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls, and wrapping rice around specialty rolls with intriguing names like Tiger Eye and Green Mussel Dynamite. There's even a mini-version of the bar that chefs bring to special events, enabling them to craft sushi on-location, anywhere instead of only booking birthday parties held at fish markets. Aside from sushi, the seasoned staff also cooks traditional Japanese entrees such as teriyaki chicken, tonkatsu––a fried pork cutlet––, and negima beef, which is sliced and wrapped around green onions. Large enough for two, Nabemono specialties combine flavor with fanfare—they cook at the table in a pan or a bowl. One such dish, yosenabe, stirs seasonal seafood, chicken, tofu, yam noodles, and vegetables in a zesty house broth. If the heat proves too much, there are always glasses of chilled imported sake to help cool things down.