TJ's Seafood isn't exactly new to Dallas. It started in 1989 at Preston and Forest, serving up seafood out of a fish case. A few years ago, they expanded to the Oak Lawn area and added a dine-in restaurant component to their business. Now, they've shuttered the original TJ's Seafood and opened up the brand new TJ's Seafood Market and Grill in the Preston Royal Shopping Center.
Designed by Hatsumi Kuzuu, whose resume includes both FT33 and Tei-An, the new space is both comfortable and chic. Along with moving on up to better digs, TJ's owner Jon Alexis brought in Chef Nick Harrison, who brings a serious culinary pedigree to the restaurant. Before taking the reins at TJ's, Harrison worked at Thomas Keller's The French Laundry and spent eight years in South America as a private chef. Here in Dallas, he's been in the kitchen at both Salum and Stephan Pyles.
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The menu at the new TJ's doesn't differ much from what's on offer at the Oak Lawn location in terms of style, but Harrison has created an elevated and diverse menu. Alongside the usual seafood restaurant standbys like steamed mussels and grilled salmon, you'll find some more creative options, like a hoisin-glazed filet of Hawaiian big eye tuna served with green tea soba noodles. The signature lobster roll and crab cakes are also on offer, which are worth the drive to North Dallas on their own.
The new TJ's also has a one-up on the Oak Lawn location in terms of booze. The latter only serves wine and beer, but Preston Royal has a beautiful full bar. The cocktail menu is pretty standard, but there are some definite high notes. A "Dark and Smokey" is made with house-smoked dark rum, and the addition of watermelon puree makes a typically ho-hum margarita sweet and refreshing. There's also Texas-made Herman Marshall Rye served straight from the barrel for discerning whiskey snobs.
Beyond the cocktail menu, they've also got Ballast Point beer on draft, made by a small brewery in San Diego. Ballast Point is one of the most award-winning breweries in California, and was recently named "Champion Small Brewery" at the Beer World Cup. Interestingly enough, each of the beers on offer, like a gold-medal winning IPA, were formulated specifically to pair with fish.
For owner Jon Alexis, the new TJ's Seafood, opening the Oak Lawn location was paving the way for him to realize his fish-filled dream. "Oak Lawn is the charcoal drawing," says Alexis. "Preston Royal is the oil painting." Since opening, Alexis is happy to report that the restaurant has been packed. On my visit at around 3 p.m., the restaurant wasn't on a 30-minute wait like they have been in the evenings, but there weren't too many empty tables.