The most influential figure on the Dallas dining scene might be Teiichi Sakurai, who is doing his best to build one of America’s best Japanese food markets. Sakurai’s previous restaurants, Teppo and Tei Tei Robata, are both still open and still outstanding, and his ramen shop Ten is a cult favorite. But Tei-An is his masterpiece, one of the few restaurants in America to make its own soba noodles from scratch. The soba is spectacular however you try it, from plain noodles with a trio of dipping sauces in bowls to a “bolognese” riff that bridges the gap between Japan and Italy. Tei-An flies in fresh seafood daily straight from Tokyo, making sushi and sashimi essential orders. Tasting menus offer a good chance to try everything, including the excellent tempura. Tei-An spent months of 2020 closed during the pandemic, reopening with high-tech imported fever-sensing gadgets and ultra-strict procedures to keep employees and guests safe.
Top pick: Order as much as possible from the list of daily specials, then fill up on the city’s best okonomiyaki. If you don’t save room for a bowl of black sesame mousse for dessert, then you’ll just have to go back. It’s this critic’s favorite dessert in Texas, period.
The downside: It’ll take you a fair number of visits, at least, to be invited into the half-secret society of regulars who receive special perks, like menu specials, wooden plaques with their names that are placed atop reserved tables and access to a rooftop patio.
Fun fact: This isn’t just a local favorite. Tei-An has a glittering reputation over in Japan, too. If you get a glimpse of the wooden plaques for the members of this restaurant’s secret society of regulars, you’ll see the names of several of Major League Baseball’s Japanese players.