The culinary menu in Deep Ellum broadens with Niwa Japanese BBQ, a new "yakiniku" restaurant opening in the fall. Also known as Japanese barbecue, yakiniku is similar to Korean barbecue — or fondue spots, for that matter — in which diners receive raw ingredients such as meats and vegetables to cook at the table themselves.
Owner Jimmy Niwa, who moved here from California where yakiniku restaurants are very popular, says the concept offers flexibility and options.
"I think part of what attracts people to yakiniku is that you only pay for what you have eaten," he says. "It's not a typical restaurant where you get an 8-ounce protein, starch, and vegetable, and pay $30. You can cut out carbs, skip meat, or forgo the veggie, and eat for $8 to $12, or $40 to $60."
There's also less waste. It's a good option for groups, and a "natural ice breaker," he says. "If you're eating with friends, you can try a lot more dishes on the menu, and you get a lot more tastes," he says.
One thing that sets yakiniku apart from the Korean barbecue to which it is often compared is the technology of the grills stationed at each table. Get ready for some details about kitchen equipment.
"Korean barbecue restaurants generally use an updraft or Vent-a-Hood system, but we pride ourselves on our grills' downdraft system," Niwa says. "It sucks the smoke out and heads downward.
"I don't know if you've ever gone to a Korean barbecue place and come out smelling like barbecue after you leave. With smokeless roasters, you will not smell like barbecue after you leave the restaurant."
There'll be a full bar with a rotating cocktail menu from bar manager Mark Kinzer, a mixologist previously stationed in Miami; assistant general manager is Matthew Normand, a Dallas native.
In addition to the yakiniku options, there are also noodles and cooked items such as Japanese-style fried chicken and genuine A-5 Wagyu from Japan.
The location, 2939 Main St., is a vintage building that was for many years an auto glass repair shop.
"We're next to Monkey King, and they're doing pretty well, and that shows there's more people who are willing to try new things outside the norm and the awesome food culture in Dallas," Niwa says. "Our food is not so exotic that people will be scared off, but we definitely have items that people may find unusual. But that's part of the appeal."