While DFW boasts significant Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese populations, one is hard pressed to find more than the random Japanese person every now and then, much less an authentic Japanese restaurant. Most sushi restaurants in our area are owned by either Vietnamese or Korean proprietors.
Unless eating bad airport sushi during layovers in Tokyo count, I've never had the pleasure of eating a real Japanese meal while in Japan. The two most authentic experiences I've had with Japanese cuisine occurred in Las Vegas and Taiwan. You really can find just about anything your heart desires in Las Vegas.
Imagine my joy when I discovered Sushi Yama, right here in our very own backyard.
I've long heard about Sushi Yama from local food lovers, one who shall remain nameless and has a borderline unhealthy obsession with the place. For some reason, I always managed to avoid the restaurant. Honestly, I thought, "How good or different can a Japanese restaurant in Dallas actually be?" Only after a session of boredom-induced Internet surfing was my interest in Sushi Yama seriously piqued.
Upon finding online pictures of the restaurant, I sat hypnotized by the images of pink slices of fish, noodle soups, fried tempura, and (be still, my beating heart) goldfish shaped cakes filled with sweet azuki red bean!
How could this most humble of Japanese restaurants, with its Furr's cafeteria-style
furniture and drab green walls, have eluded me for so long? It was everything I love in a restaurant; comfort (oversized 80's furniture), an aversion to pretense (spam is on the menu), and beautiful food (the prawns!).
Sandwiched between an Irish pub on one side and an English pub on the other, Sushi Yama sits in a lackluster shopping strip near the corner of Forest and Greenville. I felt right at home as soon as I walked into the restaurant. Scattered throughout the cozy dining room, patrons varied from Japanese men snacking and sipping beer, to young Asian scenesters looking for a good meal, to WASP-y type double-daters indulging in their well-kept secret.
We found ourselves a couple of empty seats at the small sushi bar and made ourselves comfortable. Excitement had kept me from thinking about one crucial bummer; I wouldn't be able to order any of the meat items because of Lent. This meant that I wouldn't be able to order items such as the ramen, the yakitori, or the highly recommended fried chicken gizzards. Disappointed, but not deterred, we pressed on in our pursuit. Keeping my dining partner Cathy's adoration for soft-shell crab in mind, I ordered the crustacean to start. As we continued perusing our menus, the soft-shell crabs arrived at our table, or should I say, the soft-shell CRAB arrived at our table. For $6.50, we expected to see more than one small quartered crab on the plate. Although seasoned and fried perfectly, this was not a good start to the meal.
I proceeded with caution by ordering only two more dishes, the Agedashi Tofu and the Tempura Udon, but held onto the menu, lest I felt the need to order more. Two glasses of sake later, our highly anticipated dishes arrived. This time, Sushi Yama did not disappoint.
When Cathy, being the furthest person from a vegetarian I know, stops mid-sentence to gush over a piece of tofu, it has to be some damned good tofu. Agedashi tofu translates to "aged tofu" which is then fried. Thin, salted, and crispy skin encases sweet silky bean curd, and when bitten into, literally melts in your mouth, sending the palate into a sensation of textures and flavor. With the tofu swimming in a pool of tempura sauce (a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and dashi), my fellow rice-lover and I requested a bowl of steamed rice to soak up all of the delicious liquid. Green onion, bonito flakes, and grated daikon radish completed the simple and well-executed dish. Despite feeling the urge to order another round of tofu, I had some udon noodle soup to taste.
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Fried tempura battered pieces of shrimp, eggplant, zucchini, and squash float atop the udon, forming a beautiful medley with the noodles and broth. Much like the tempura sauce, the udon's broth has a base of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce, creating a flavor simultaneously sweet and salty. Dashi, a stock base, is fundamental for almost every Japanese sauce and soup. As for the noodle component, Sushi Yama's non-uniformed thickness of the udon rice noodle hints at it being homemade. However, with the dining room beginning to fill up to capacity, I didn't want to bother our busy waitress with pesky questions.
The udon and tofu were enough to cast aside any initial doubts I may have had and further cemented by plans for a meat and sushi-filled revisit. $1 Sushi night (on Tuesdays and Saturdays) awaits my return.
To be continued...
Sushi Yama Japanese Restaurant
8989 Forest Lane, Suite 112