Yuki Hirabayashi, the sushi chef who opened Sushi Bayashi at Trinity Groves in 2014, is taking over the sushi bar at Musume in the Dallas Arts District.
Hirabayashi, a native of Tokyo, came to Dallasites’ attention during a seven-year run at Kenichi in Victory Park before moving to Trinity Groves to open his own restaurant. Starting May 18 at Musume, he’ll once again be working for former Kenichi owner Joshua Babb.
“It was Yuki’s dream to open his own restaurant, so it has been heartbreaking to see this pandemic force him to essentially abandon what he has worked so hard to accomplish,” Babb says. “That said, the team and I could not be happier to welcome him back with open arms.”
A Trinity Groves representative confirms that Sushi Bayashi is closed, but a new sushi and ramen concept will fill the restaurant’s spot soon. We don’t have details on that new project yet.
Hirabayashi’s arrival could be a perfect fit for Musume, which has carved a successful niche for itself with a booming speakeasy-style back bar with an acclaimed sake program. Hirabayashi brings legitimacy and veteran experience to a sushi program which, when it first opened two years ago, drew some harsh critiques.
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“I’m very excited to be reunited with Yuki,” Babb says. “Besides being gifted with the knife, he’s incredibly passionate about sushi. He was always the one at Kenichi that never wanted to go home. He just wants to be back there making sushi. It’s kind of like Gabe [Sanchez] at Black Swan Saloon: You can’t imagine him not being there behind the bar. He has an enormous sense of pride. It’s his sushi bar. He’s got to be there all the time.”
Musume currently serves food to go and also has its dining room open at 25% capacity, as mandated by an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott. Hosts hand face masks to customers at the entrance, staff members receive temperature checks at the beginning of each shift, menus are disposable and cooks wear masks and gloves while handling dishes that are often served raw.
While I was chatting with Babb, I asked him how he is feeling about the dining room being open at a limited capacity. He says Musume isn’t making a profit, but he appreciates the chance to learn new hygiene rules without a full house of waiting customers.
“It’s easier for us to practice,” Babb says. “In February, we were doing 250, 300 covers on Friday, Saturday nights. I can’t imagine just reopening and even doing half those numbers with all the regulations. Every single time a team member touches anything a guest has touched, they change their gloves. We have managers on the floor policing it. But the servers have only a couple tables at a time. If the servers had a normal section of four or five tables, it would be a lot harder to keep up.”