One of the biggest looming trends in sushi right now will make its way to Deep Ellum with a new restaurant called Nori Handroll Bar, opening at 2814 Elm St., in the same vintage brick storefront as Hide.
Handrolls, aka temaki, are like a more forgiving version of sushi. Sheets of seaweed are wrapped in a cone or cylindrical shape, enclosing a filling of rice, fish, and vegetables — your basic sushi ingredients.
Handrolls are easier because they don't require a perfectly tight assembly. They also tend to be simpler in ingredients and construction than the overloaded, over-sauced sushi rolls found at many sushi spots.
A number of handroll restaurants are in the works around Dallas, but Nori, which is set to open in August, will likely be the first.
Nori owner Mark Lee is an entrepreneur who moved to Dallas from Korea as a child, and who runs a successful employment agency.
In Nori, he's partnered with Jimmy Park, the former Nobu chef who helped open Pok the Raw Bar at the West Village.
"We wanted to do something beyond the traditional mom-and-pop sushi restaurant," Lee says. "Our menu is finite, with only about 12 fixed handrolls, plus special items that Jimmy will offer, based on seasonal availability."
But the ingredients will be top of the line, he says.
"We've teamed up with a distributor that will fly in our fish from Tsukiji market in Tokyo weekly with a 30- to 48-hour turnaround," he says. "We're using sustainable wild-caught fish for everything we're doing, it will always be fresh. And the nori seaweed for which our restaurant is named is one of the highest grades from Japan."
They'll also serve sake, beer, and wine.
Before settling on Deep Ellum, they considered other in-town spots such as West Village and Victory Park. But Deep Ellum was best suited for what they wanted to do. The storefront they got is a gem which has been vacant for some time.
"It ties in to three separate aspects of Japanese culture," says Lee, who's done quite a bit of traveling to research his vision. "The front portion will have an izakaya, reminiscent of the neighborhood alleyway bar in the streets of Tokyo. The izakaya will have a special menu of sake from Japan, along with Japanese and local craft beers, and wines. Jimmy will do a rotation of distinct seasonal tapas which will blend Japanese cuisine with some Texas flair."
In the center of the restaurant, they'll have a sushi bar — no tables, just 26 stools, serving temaki, and maybe the occasional omakase.
"We are entertaining the idea of doing an omakase meal once in a while to truly showcase chef Jimmy's talents and to show what a true edomae-style omakase looks, feels, and most importantly tastes like," Lee says.
If you've read Saveur magazine lately, you know that edomae is a style of sushi invented in Tokyo centuries ago, in which the fish is aged, fermented, or otherwise treated to bring out its best properties, that is coming back into favor.
"We've created a more elegant, quiet, typical Japanese sushi bar," Lee says. "And the back of the restaurant will tie into the Deep Ellum vibe with murals and art on the wall."
They'll open at the beginning of August, and already have their sights set on more locations in Texas' top cities.
"But we'll start with Dallas, and if it's successful, we'll give it a go," he says.