Popping the Lid

Pandora Japanese Cuisine is minimal, and that's the least we can say

Travel into the dining room, and you'll discover a number of attractions, including high-backed chairs with contemporary edgework as well as high-backed, cozy banquettes among an array of creams and browns. An idle robata bar is tucked in the back. Other tables have benches with pillows for cushioning.

More excellent attractions: Pandora has a sake lounge, with deep red walls and dusky nooks where minimalism is submerged to a higher order; namely, implied debauchery. Pandora offers an array of sakes, all of them cold, with tasting notes like this: "Super excellent, honeysuckle, tuberose, Fuji apple and spiced pear." There is also wine called cat piss. Try to find that in Tulsa.

But elemental purity swerves off its minimalist rails to follow the "hip" culinary rules, which say there must be fusion. Yet the fusings are more subtle than most. Behold the hoisin duck nachos: round cool corn tortillas with scraps of cold duck (not the drink kind), caramelized leeks and a pepper treatment that snuffs any chill factor. Chips are slightly flaccid, perhaps because they were sitting in cold duck for a while before they were delivered.

Pandora: minimalist food, minimalist décor and, apparently, minimalist diners
Tom Jenkins
Pandora: minimalist food, minimalist décor and, apparently, minimalist diners


Sushi $6 to $9
Seaweed salad $5
Robata squid $12
Flounder sashimi $15
Hoisin duck $10
Flank steak $24
Closed Location

Much better, and a much better example of elemental purity, is the whole robata grilled squid. An entire animal is spread on a rectangular plate and sectioned like some sort of prop illustrating vivisection depravity. The body is reduced to a repeating sequence of flat loops; the tentacles around the head are severed into a neat cluster, as if they were clinging to the possibility of unity. The meat is firm but tender. The flavor is clean and unadulterated but with a clean puff of smoky bitterness.

Marinated flank steak is topped with a truffle aioli, which adds a rich, unctuous nuttiness. But the meat slacks. Sliced sections are dry and tough, with flavor that seems to have seeped away, leaving a desiccated steak husk. Plus, ordered medium rare, it arrives battleship gray. Greasy fried onion strings are on one corner of the plate, while sautéed mushrooms--tight, separate and firm--occupy the other.

And therein lies the challenge. Pandora service is plodding and unevenly paced. The kitchen moves like a cruise ship negotiating a right turn, this even though there is virtually no one in the place save for sushi chefs and high-definition rear-projection fish. But it does have a genuine shogun suit of armor and a waterless waterfall. Don't forget to pop up the flash bar for that last one.


Dallas Ministry of Tourism Truth 2208 Main St., Suite A. Open for lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. Open for dinner 5-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday & Saturday. $$$

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