When I first moved to Dallas, and was trying to figure out my neighborhood's food scene, my online research kept pointing me toward Kuai, a dumpling joint on Elm Street.
I scoured Elm Street, but couldn't find it. I had no idea then that the restaurant was beneath me, tucked into the serpentine tunnel system that's largely inhibited street-level development downtown. While those of stuck seeking dinner above ground have to subsist on mediocre pizza and Tex-Mex, lunching office workers have their pick of pho, vindaloo, pad thai and falafel.
And now there's sushi, courtesy of Sushi Yaa, the popular Arlington sushi cafeteria that opened a subterranean outlet last month. I dropped by the restaurant this week on my inaugural tunnel eating tour.
Sushi Yaa serves middlebrow rolls, and lots of them. The menu includes nine different variations on the California roll. But the fish is very fresh, and the bright colors of just-sliced salmon and tuna almost compensate for the gloominess of eating in a bunker. The rolls may not be revelatory, but they're satisfying: I especially liked a roll topped with shredded potatoes and masago eggs. "I don't hate any of this," my lunch companion decided.
Sushi Yaa's also terrifically cheap: The sushi's priced by the ounce, so I sampled four rolls for $3.03. The soup's free - because "this type of food tastes better with soup," a man distributing menus explained - and good: There are self-service tureens of a well-made miso and a ramen soup with cabbage.
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I've had better sushi in Dallas, but Sushi Yaa serves some of the best help-yourself sushi I've had in a food court, underground or otherwise. I just wish the tunnel restaurants didn't close at 4:30 p.m.: I suspect knowing there's a decent sushi joint just a few hundred vertical feet away will make soggy pizza even harder to swallow.