Another hit by James Beard nominated chef Teiichi Sakurai of Tei-An is this tiny, standing room only ramen shack in Oak Cliff's Sylvan Thirty complex. The compact menu, which is displayed on a large blackboard, offers four ramen choices: shoyu, tonkotsu, mazemen (dry ramen with pork jowl) and spicy lobster miso, all of which are filled with assorted veggies and can be further amped up with things like chashu and poached eggs. Keep an eye out for unique weekly specials, like a Korean bulgogi ramen or a chicken katsu curry. Don't sleep on the rice bowls here, either.
Recommended for Japanese because: Ten Ramen is best for a quick and reasonably priced lunch option.
Ilene's expert tip: Ten Ramen takes credit cards only, no cash. Ten Ramen has another location with outdoor seating at 5808 Windhaven Pkwy in The Colony.
Dallas' best kept secret, Zen Sushi is a modest 60-seat charmer in Bishop Arts run by veteran sushi chef Michelle Carpenter. The menu offers more of an nontraditional take Japanese fare with contemporary creations incorporating the elements of Asian and Latin American cuisine. That's not to say you won't find authentic nigiri and sashimi here, but there's also everything from brown-sugar braised carnitas bao buns to coconut panko shrimp alongside a slew of unique vegetarian options like fried tofu pockets and sweet potato tempura rolls. For diners who are looking for a more elevated experience, Carpenter serves a ten course omakase tasting dinner for $125 per person.
Recommended for Japanese because: Zen Sushi is ideal for groups with different tastes and dietary requirements.
Ilene's expert tip: Zen Sushi offers a special discounted menu on Mondays. Note that there is free parking in front of the restaurant.
For those who want to venture beyond sushi and ramen, behold Niwa, a super-slick yakiniku spot in Deep Ellum where do-it-yourself Japanese BBQ is the name of the game. Here, diners can choose from an array of marinated proteins and veggies and cook it all up over grills built right into their tables. Beef belly, chicken breast, lamb chops, rib eye and Wagyu, it's all there, as well seafood options like calamari and shrimp. You want intestines? Tongue? Pork jowl? They've got that too. Don't feel like cooking? There are also ready-to-eat items, ranging from chicken karaage (crunchy crisp-fried pieces of chicken) to udon noodle bowls and hamachi crudo.
Recommended for Japanese because: Niwa features a more than your average grill-your-own Japanese BBQ experience.
Ilene's expert tip: Score discounts on meats for the gill plus $6 cocktails, $5 canned beers, $6 sake by the glass, $5 call drinks & $6 house wines by the glass during happy hour, offered all day on Tuesdays, and from 5-6:30 p.m., Monday-Thursday.
Arriving on the Plano restaurant scene in 2017, this upscale spot offers top-notch sushi and sashimi along with a host of unique Japanese dishes. Expect to delve into everything from ankimo (monkfish liver) with truffle oil to chicken tatsuta and miso-marinated grilled halibut. The best deals can be had during lunch when you can score a combo plate (think karaage chicken, rice, edamame, miso soup and salad) for $11.50. To drink, there's everything from Japanese whiskey to an extensive selection of sake and shochu. Note that during the week the restaurant closes after lunch service at 2 p.m. and reopens at 5 p.m. for dinner.
Recommended for Japanese because: Wa Kubota offers a little something for everyone, even kids.
Ilene's expert tip: Wa Kubota offers ½ price sushi rolls during happy hour, from 5-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Recently opened in Bishop Arts is this shoe-box-sized izakaya by Dallas pop-up ramen chef Justin Holt. The menu features ramen, of course, but what you want to come here for is the traditional yakitori which is grilled over Japanese binchotan charcoal. Expect to find skewers of virtually every part of the chicken, ranging from the wing and breast to the inner thigh, knee cartilage and tail. Other items from the grill include arabiki sausage, shishito peppers, okra and enoki mushrooms with bacon. Don't miss the soy-glazed tsukune (chicken meatballs) which is served with a tare sauce and cured egg yolk. Japanese whiskey, shochu cocktails and soft-serve Mexican vanilla ice cream dipped in dark or white chocolate are also featured.
Recommended for Japanese because: Salaryman is a great place to take a date.
Ilene's expert tip: No reservations are taken, but diners can wait in the bar at Macellaio next door until their table is ready. There's valet parking as well as several free parking lots around the corner.
Recently opened on lower Greenville Avenue, this sleek ramen joint comes by way of Masao Kuribara, a fourth-generation chef and restaurateur whose family boasts a 134-year history in the restaurant business in Tokyo. But what sets this place apart from the rest is that instead of the thicker pork-bone based broth commonly found in most ramen, Hinodeya's signature ramen is composed with a umami-rich dashi stock made from seaweed and dried fish. On offer are several different varieties, ranging from a clam ramen and a spicy miso-chicken ramen to the restaurant's eponymous ramen, which is flavored with scallop-and-pork oil then garnished with chashu pork and a marinated soft-cooked egg. Also included on the menu is a vegan option featuring a creamy shitake-dashi broth and spinach wheat noodles. Rounding out the menu are apps like takoyaki (octopus balls) and chicken kara-age.
Recommended for Japanese because: Hinodeya is a terrific place to go when you have vegetarians in tow.
Ilene's expert tip: Look for the entrance to be on Bell Street. The restaurant takes walk-ins only, reservations are not accepted. There is a free parking lot as well as a complimentary valet behind the restaurant.
Tucked in behind a Zen garden on Henderson Avenue, this upscale Japanese spot has a reputation larger than its compact-sized digs. Which should come as no surprise considering the restaurant was originally opened in 1998 by the father of Dallas' Japanese food scene Teiichi Sakurai. Though Sakurai sold Tei Tei to his executive chef, Katsutoshi Sakamoto, when he founded Tei-An in 2008, the restaurant still turns out a solid menu of daily changing specials ranging from assorted raw fish options to robata grilled dishes like whole black snapper and Kuroge-Washu beef. Be sure to give the sake list a proper look, there are around twenty impeccable selections to choose from.
Recommended for Japanese because: Tei Tei Robata Bar is a great place to go with friends who like to share.
Ilene's expert tip: Tei Tei features DJ sets in the lounge on Friday and Saturday nights from 8-11 p.m.
This stylish newcomer in the heart of historic downtown Plano features a slew of sophisticated Japanese specialties by chef Koji "Tsukasa" Yoshida. Yoshida's repertoire of dishes run the gamut from impeccably sourced sushi and sashimi to binchotan-grilled robata options like seared wagyu beef with ponzu jelly and sliced kurobuta pork jowl served with a paste made from fermented Japanese ume plums. Equally enticing is the hitsumabushi, a Nagoya-style grilled eel and rice dish that is best enjoyed in three stages: First by savoring it alone, then with the accompanying condiments, and finally with dashi broth poured over the top. Fun fact: The restaurant was designed by the same folks who did the interiors for Gonpachi, the Tokyo restaurant featured in Quentin Tarantino's 2004 film, Kill Bill.
Recommended for Japanese because: Ebesu is where to find authentic Japanese specialties that aren't commonly seen on North Texas menus.
Ilene's expert tip: Parking can be difficult to find around here, look for extra spaces behind the restaurant or across the light-rail tracks at Haggard Park.
James Beard award-winning chef Tyson Cole's Austin-based sushi paradise has been a hot-ticket reservation since the restaurant opened near Uptown in 2015. And for good reason: The menu features an exquisite lineup of nigiri and sashimi as well as innovative takes on Japanese dishes. Fresh, high-quality ingredients shine with crowd-pleasers like thinly sliced flounder with candied quinoa, and oak-grilled escolar dressed in ponzu and citrus marmalade. The drinks list impresses as much as the food. And the fried milk is a must-have ending to any meal here. Pro tip: The restaurant keeps around 40% of its tables available to walk-ins, plus you can find many of the same menu items upstairs at Uchiba.
Recommended for Japanese because: Uchi is where to go when you want an innovative Japanese culinary experience.
Ilene's expert tip: Score small plates and libations for $3 to $10 during Uchi's Sake Social, offered daily between 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Renowned Dallas chef Teiichi Sakurai's Arts District gem is regularly billed as one of the best Japanese restaurants in Dallas. On the menu, you'll find everything from sushi, sashimi and tempura to exotic options like white seaweed salad and sea urchin-shrimp risotto. But the real specialty here is Sakurai's hand-crafted soba noodles, which are served cold or warm and come with an assortment of rich broths and sauces. The omakase (tasting menu), while not easy on the wallet, is the best way to experience all Tei-An has to offer. Don't skip dessert, the soba ice cream with black honey is worth saving space for. Did we mention the rooftop terrace?
Recommended for Japanese because: When you want to venture beyond the usual sushi selections, Tei-An promises an tasteful experience on every plate.
Ilene's expert tip: Tei-An offers a chef ($150) and premium omakase ($200) as well as a pre-theatre 4-course omakase for $80 per person, which is available during the first hour of opening time. All omakase dinners require a 3-day advance notice.