A fun new concept is opening in Deep Ellum that will bring dim sum to the center of town. Called Neon Kitten Izakaya, it'll open at at 2805 Main St., in the former Beauty Bar space, where it will offer not only a dim sum experience, it'll also have a private speakeasy bar in the back.
In the U.S., dim sum is the Chinese feast consisting of dumplings and other small plates, delivered to diners via mobile carts. Speakeasy is a little bar, often hidden within another bar or restaurant.
Neon Kitten is from Bhuvanesh "Bob" Khanna and partner Vik Katoch, both food & beverage veterans who are collaborating on this ambitious and highly personal venture.
Khanna moved from Nashville to Dallas in 2019 to join the team at Hall Arts Hotel in the Arts District, where he served as general manager. Katoch has worked as a chef at a number of hotels around the world, most recently Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre.
Khanna says that some of their inspiration for this concept came from the years he lived in Hawaii.
"I loved how much life there was influenced by southeast Asian culture, with influences from Japan and China," Khanna says. "Dim sum was more common. That was my jam, to go have dim sum every Sunday, and it struck me that there were not a lot of people doing dim sum in this market, especially in the center of Dallas."
Dim Sum Central, a website that documents the national dim sum scene, lists Dallas' five top dim sum spots but with the exception of longtime staple Royal China, they are all in outlying areas.
"So that was the genesis: Chinese dim sum, in combination with an izakaya concept that does Japanese barbecue, and blend it together, offering these small plates to our guests," Khanna says.
They're aiming to open in August. The menu is still being developed, they're still interviewing chef candidates, and their location is currently undergoing renovation.
They got the Beauty Bar space, which closed in October 2020. The venue's extended footprint allowed them to incorporate a separate speakeasy in the back, called Blackbird Society, which will allow them to fulfill another goal: supporting local artists and musicians.
"One of the things I took from living in Nashville was an appreciation for music and an understanding of the struggle that musicians experience," Khanna says. "We'd like to provide a platform for up-and-coming songwriters and musicians to come and perform. I love hearing people's stories."
"It's about creating a culture of creativity and music," he says. "I think my perspective changed after COVID-19. I want to be working on something fun and that also has a positive impact on the community."