Can food be art? Absolutely! Especially when it comes to sushi. I have searched high and low for the best sushi/Japanese food in Dallas and have found some amazing places (Tei An, Tei Tei and Zen Sushi just to name a few). So, how is it that in my 8 years here I’ve never once walked through the doors of this art gallery of raw fish? So, on a cold rainy night we decided to scratch our sushi itch – too graphic? – at Teppo. We were truly amazed.
As soon as you walk in, you feel a sense of calm, excitement and a willingness to be a little adventurous. From the lighting and the decor to the chefs that greet you and the chalkboard of specials that are all in Japanese, you know you have come to the right place.
As soon as we sat down at the sushi bar, we were greeted by Chef Tommy (his nickname, I presume). He placed a large square shared plate in front of us and this became the canvas for our adventure.
Our first dish was one that Chef Tommy recommended, Cured Itoyori with Ponzu Jelly. This was not something that I had ever tried before and I still have no idea what Ponzu Jelly is, but I am a fan. The combination had a mildly salty and tart flavor, but was absolutely fresh and delicious.
Next came the Baby Yellowtail… those tiny, adorable, delicious little creatures. No, I didn’t feel bad. They should stop being so damn tasty if they don’t want me to eat them
As always, salmon is one of the barometers by which I measure a sushi joint. Everyone serves the humble salmon, but few truly know how to do it the right way. Teppo’s salmon may have been one of the best I’ve ever had. It was fresh, perfectly marbled, sweet (yes, raw salmon is sweet) and buttery. It absolutely melted in my mouth. In fact, I ordered another serving at the end of the meal for dessert.
You know me… I can’t see gizzards on a menu and not oblige. Grilled chicken hearts? Check! We threw in some grilled shishto peppers and cherry tomatoes wrapped in bacon… Mmm… Bacon… but I digress! Each item was incredible, but for those of you who know chicken hearts (I am assuming a few of you are weird like me) you know how hard it is to cook them. They can overcook in just seconds and become tough. Teppo’s chicken hearts were perfect and tender with great flavor.
One thing struck me as we ate our meal – the timing of each course was perfect. Granted, it was not a busy night, but the presentation of each item was perfectly time. Not too slow and not too fast. It allowed us to enjoy each item before starting the next.
Now, I have ordered octopus many times and I am always disappointed. They are generally heavily boiled/steamed and lack flavor. In my experience, they are generally more of a texture than a taste. But this was a completely new experience. Teppo’s octopus is fresh, and according to Tommy, flown in weekly from northern Japan. I had to stop myself from breaking out into signing Drakes’ “Best I Ever Had”… Yes I realize my affection for food is a little unhealthy. The point is… if you’re at Teppo and the fresh octopus is on the specials board, order it and don’t look back.
The spicy tuna roll was very good and was a nice change of pace. It’s spice was very late hitting, but not overpowering.
So, apparently I’ll never learn. I have probably tried Japanese Mackerel a half dozen times and no matter where I am, or how great the place is, it just doesn’t work for me. Oh well… lots more to try. This mackerel was cured, so it has a mildly salty taste. It was just not my cup of tea.
Watching Chef Tommy make each piece was absolutely mesmerizing. The speed, delicacy and precision of his hands truly make you appreciate the skill involved in great sushi.
Teppo’s Sea Urchin was not served live, but its mild hint of the sea was very good. It has taken me some time to warm up to Uni, but I have started to fall in love with it. If you haven’t tried it before, you should. But keep in mind that how fresh it is (preferably live), and where the Sea Urchin is from will make a dramatic difference in its taste. Even at the best sushi restaurants, it is possible to get a piece that just doesn’t taste as good as the others.
I mentioned that I generally like to eat raw salmon as my last piece (assuming it’s good), but another one of my favorite closers is Unagi or fresh water eel. This is a cooked item resting on sticky rice and glazed with sweet Unagi sauce. It’s a wonderful treat for you palate and a wonderful way to close any meal.
Just when I thought I could eat no more and my Teppo adventure was over, I come across a hot sake drink that I could not resist. So, you mean to tell me that you take hot sake, drop in blowfish fins and then light it on fire? Sold!!
Many of you may already have figured this out, but I like all things weird and unusual. This definitely fit the bill. But, I think it will be a one and done experience for me. The odor and flavor of the blowfish were just too much. Mix that with the fact that I don’t like sake all that much (yeah I’m not very bright) and you have something that I am glad I tried… but please pass me a Sapporo.
Despite my inner Andrew Zimmern failing me at the end, we had an amazing dinner and we will be back. The food is so good at Teppo that you should reconsider your traditional favorites and explore the menu recommendations from your chef. The freshness of the fish, the artistry of Chef Tommy and the beauty of the flavors will bring me back to this art gallery again. The only thing I regret is that it took me 8 years experience it.
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Teppo Yakitori & Sushi Bar is located at 2014 Greenville Avenue in the Lowest Greenville neighborhood in Dallas. Here are a few links for more information.