Like many of you, I have my favorite dishes at my favorite restaurants. Sometimes I catch myself getting caught up in a cycle of eating the same one or two items over and over again. This is not because the other dishes are bad, but because I know how delicious my favorites are and I dare not eat something new at the risk of being disappointed. I know, I know there are much greater problems to have, but hey, this a food blog… live with it!
Recently I felt my taste buds’ need to be recharged and my comfort level’s desire to be blown to pieces. So I gravitated towards Japanese food. More specifically, I wanted an Omakase dinner. For those of you who do not know, Omakase is a Japanese word basically meaning, “I’m in your hands.” It simply means that you’re leaving all decision making, in regards to your meal, to the chef. While they plan your meal, you sit back and enjoy experiencing dishes you might have never considered or might not even be on the menu.
In order to heed the call, we found ourselves at Tei-An, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in Dallas. Located at the One Arts Plaza, Tei-An is a very elegantly designed space with a humble vibe. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and attentive, always there to refill your drink or deliver the next dish. At the same time, you are rarely aware that they are there unless you need them. Keep in mind, the Omakase experience can be tailored to your liking, based on your allergies, food preferences or special requests. However, unless you absolutely need to, I recommend going with whatever the chef decides. Tei An’s food is inventive and flavors are mind blowing—you will not be disappointed.
Let the Omakase adventure begin…
White Seaweed Salad with Soy Vinaigrette
With its first punch, Tei-An knocked me off my feet. I have never had or even heard of white seaweed. But who cares, because it was absolutely delicious. It has a very unique texture and an unexpected bit of a crunch, so be prepared for that. Almost indescribable, it was well worth it.
It was an assortment of the usual fresh and delicious suspects with a few new characters. The Yellowtail was silky smooth and the Ahi Tuna was like Pierre Cardin velour. My personal favorite, and how I judge all sushi, was the mouthwateringly sweet Salmon. The Ranko Snapper had a hint of citrus and the Bonito and Flounder were both exceptionally fresh. The flavor and texture of the baby Snapper was truly beyond description. On a side note, I wish they would call it something else. I just feel guilty eating “baby” anything. Don’t get me wrong I still ate it, but I felt bad about it for the half second it took to get from the plate to my mouth.
Sauces for Sashimi (Soy, Ponzu, Ginger & Olive and Siracha)
We tried them all on their own and they were interestingly appealing. However, the aforementioned sashimi was so delectable on its own that I didn’t dare mess with perfection.
Pausing to refill our drinks, my partner in crime went off course and ordered Sake Sangria. A combination of sake, white wine, and seasonal fruits, the bottom of the glass quickly made an appearance. Large pieces of apples, lychee, Mandarin orange, grapefruit and peach floated amongst the ice and liquid. You may even find yourselves using your straws as chopsticks to eat the sake-soaked fruit. Even if you are not a sake fan, this drink is worth a try.
Veal Marrow with Wonton Chips
Excuse me… I need a moment. I am a huge marrow fan, but this may have been the best marrow I have ever had. In fact, just seeing this picture makes me have dirty, dirty thoughts. Anyway, now that I have creeped you all out, I highly recommend that you request this. It was one of the most memorable dishes of the night. My dinner date, who is not a marrow fan, almost took my hand off when I crossed over to her side of the plate reaching for a wonton chip.
A somewhat standard dish that is served at most Japanese restaurants, Tei An’s tempura plate went one step further with a mixed plate of massive tempura fried prawns, shishito peppers, miscellaneous mushrooms, and a sweet purple potato. Each element was crispy and flavorful; however, the prawns were the star of the plate and could have easily been mistaken for buttered lobster.
This elegantly presented dish consisted of thin slices of duck served with a broth of mushrooms and fish sauce and was topped with poached egg. Served in a giant spoon looking plate, I damn near picked it up by the handle to gulp down the rest of the tasty broth. It featured some hearty, earthy, and umami flavors. Breaking the egg yolk and mixing the concoction together made it unlike any other duck dish I’ve ever experienced.
24-Hour Braised Beef Tongue on Truffle Mashed Potatoes
Ok, remember what I said about the marrow dish earlier? This dish was as magical as Galdalf mating with Dumbledore. Yeah, that good! The beef tongue was incredibly tender and the flavors were off the charts. It was so good, I recommend that you let your first bite rest in your mouth for a few seconds to absorb all of the flavor, like a beef-flavored Jolly Rancher. It reminded us of a Japanese take on Boeuf Bourguignon. The truffled mashed potatoes were good, but in my opinion, a little too heavy on the truffle oil. (These are words I never thought I would utter in my lifetime.)
Uni Truffle Risotto
I can’t say that I ever contemplated ordering risotto at a Japanese restaurant, but that’s why Omakase is so great. The risotto was perfectly al dente, flavored with enough of the Uni that I love, yet still balanced enough for anyone to enjoy. The buttered lobster like shrimp also made an appearance in this dish. At this point, I would normally say something witty and hilarious about how good this dish was, but to be honest I’m still so proud of my Gandalf and Dumbledore line that I will just say this was very, very yummy.
Bolognese Green Tea Soba Noodles with Kobe and Wagyu Beef
At this point in the meal, I was so full that I dreaded the sight of one more plate. But, I manned up… loosened my belt… unbuttoned my pants (to the extreme discomfort of the old lady sitting next to me) and dug right in. This was their signature, handmade Soba noodles dish after all! Mixed with slivers of Kobe and Wagyu beef, the dish was enhanced with shitake mushrooms and more truffle oil. This was going to blow my mind, right? Mehhh…To be honest, I’m not sure if I was just too full to truly appreciate it or if everything else was simply so much better in comparison. Either way, the soba noodles just didn’t hit the spot for me. But this is all part of Omakase, right? It’s about the experience and experimentation. My rule is to try everything at least twice, so I’m open to giving the Soba Noodles another try on my next go around.
Soba Ice Cream with House Made Japanese Black Honey
Our evening concluded with one of the most unexpectedly delicious deserts we’ve had in a long time. It looks like an unassuming scoop of ice cream, but it was so much more. The soba ice cream arrived swimming in a pool of house made Japanese black honey and was dusted with golden soy powder. It was a simple yet perfect ending to our evening of foodie opulence.
If you have read this far, it hopefully means that you semi-enjoy my sense of humor, so don’t take this the wrong way. But you need to test out their very “unique” bathrooms. I’m in a very happy relationship, but I still check my phone periodically hoping those heated seats and oddly precise water-jets call me…..maybe?
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Tei An is located in the One Arts Plaza at 1722 Routh Street in the Arts District/Downtown neighborhood of Dallas. Here are a few helpful links for both.