While the SMU area is still reeling from the recent closure of Banh Shop, we're here to offer a reason to go on. That location has a new eatery in the works, from a restaurant group with a solid track record.
Banh Shop is the banh mi joint on SMU Boulevard that was a concept from Yum! Brands, developed by restaurant guru Mark Brezinski and Dallas restaurateurs Braden and Yasmin Wages, owners of Malai Kitchen in West Village. It closed on January 28.
The location is being taken over by restaurateur Kenzo Tran, owner of Piranha Killer Sushi and Pho District in Fort Worth, and his team, including two chefs with whom he has worked on other restaurants in Dallas.
Those include Dien Nguyen, who is chef at Wabi House, the ramen restaurant on Greenville Avenue they opened in mid-2016; and Long Nguyen, chef at Sapa House, the Asian restaurant they opened in downtown Dallas, in the former Pho Colonial space.
Tran says they're still deciding some of the details on the new restaurant they'll open, including the name.
"The name is important, but it hasn't been determined yet," he says. "We do know that we'll be doing a fast-casual restaurant with Japanese-inspired fast food, but the menu is still in development stages."
Their inspiration includes Japanese street food, places they've seen in cities like New York and Toronto.
"We know we'll be doing fast-casual ramen and bao, the steamed buns," Tran says.
They're also developing an item that has been a big trend in the Pacific Northwest, namely, Japanese-inspired hot dogs.
At restaurants such as Gourmet Dog Japon in Seattle and Japadog in Vancouver, Japanese-style hot dogs get topped with ingredients such as pickled ginger, fish flakes, seaweed, wasabi, cabbage, and sukiyaki-style beef.
Tran has been a restaurateur since 2001, when he opened Piranha Killer Sushi in Arlington. There are now Piranha locations in Flower Mound, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio, with more on the way. He opened a Vietnamese restaurant, Pho District, in Fort Worth to rave reviews in 2014.
He works in a collaborative manner, as seen with Wabi House and Sapa House, where he served more of a supportive role behind the scenes.
"We feel like whatever we put out there has to have substance, and good flavors that people will come back for," he says. "And you have to have value. It can't be so expensive that people don't want to come back."
The timetable for this new place is that they'll open "fairly quickly," possibly by March.
"There wasn't much to do. Yum! Brands, who owned Banh Shop, did a lot of work," he says. "The building has an industrial feel that fits the area. It has a cool vibe. But the color scheme that was in there, with the lime green and the terra cotta, was not suitable. But I think they were on to something. Asian food is really hot these days, and I think the right concept can do well there."