A destination Asian shopping center in Grand Prairie has unfurled a round of new restaurants, part of its mission to connect people with different cultures through something innately shareable like food.
The center is Asia Times Square, at 2625 W. Pioneer Pkwy., and the new restaurant concepts include sushi, ramen, matcha beverages, and ice cream. They join a community of businesses at Asia Times Square that help to bolster its niche as a major Asian market in Texas.
Anchored by Asian supermarket Hong Kong Market Place, Asia Times began as a market to serve the community, and is best known for its annual Lunar New Year celebration which is open and free to all. It has since blossomed into a multi-purpose village with offices, retailers, restaurants, health and beauty services, law offices, travel agency, and more.
Early restaurant tenants included The Pearl, an authentic Chinese restaurant that does dim sum seven days a week; Bistro B, a Vietnamese local favorite; pho restaurant Pho Hung; and Banh Mi No. 1, a sandwich shop.
The new crop of restaurants reflects a desire to broaden the variety, says co-owner Matthew Loh.
"We wanted to bring something more modern with a new food court, and we like different flavors," he says. "The goal was to have different regions for people to experience. We wanted it to represent Asia and be a destination where people can almost visit Asia without having to pay travel costs."
"We have Vietnamese, Filipino, pho, Cajun, Thai, Cambodian, ramen, and sushi," he says. "We have Beard Papa, the world's best cream puff, and Meccha Matcha, who do green tea ice cream. These are all opening and we're getting ready to add more."
The newbies include:
Omakase To Go. Chef Thi Tran, former sushi chef at Uchi in Dallas, is doing vegan and seafood sushi featuring fish sourced from Tsukiji Market, the internationally known seafood market in Tokyo, with specials such as Otoro and Hokkaido Uni. Tran held a soft opening test run on December 18 and will reopen on January 1.
Meccha Matcha. This stand serves soft-serve and scooped ice cream in revelatory flavors including their signature green tea ice ceam, plus exotic flavors such as ube and black sesame. In addition to cones, they also serve unique ice cream floats such as Yuzu Matcha Float with ice cream combined with a refreshing sweet-tart yuzu drink. This is the second location, following the original that opened in Plano in 2018. "We are very passionate about matcha and only use the most premium, highly concentrated powder in our items," they say.
Sakari Ramen. New ramen shop made its soft opening debut on December 20, in the stall next to Meccha Matcha, with Japanese and Asian dishes that include tonkotsu ramen, garlic dry noodle, katsu rice plate, and chicken karaage. They do a unique spin with dishes such as Lemon Ramen, with a flavorful shoyu broth and refreshing citrus zing.
Apsara Cambodian & Thai. Newly opened restaurant specializes in dishes such as lort cha, with "pin noodles," found on almost every corner of Cambodia, making it one of the most recognized Cambodian dishes.
Beard Papa's. Japanese chain with more than 500 locations around the world does cream puffs in flavors like matcha and honey butter. It has two DFW locations, in Plano and Frisco, plus two in the Houston area.
Loh and his family began with a shopping center in Arlington before investing in Grand Prairie. They launched Asia Times Square nearly a decade ago in a former Walmart then acquired a nearby Sam's Club in 2013, where the new concepts have debuted.
"We've created an upscale food court with two floors," he says. "The bottom floor has eight kitchens, six of which have already been leased out. Upstairs there's a multi-purpose room for small parties and we're adding a balcony that goes outside between two buildings, it's cool the way they're connected."
They also spent $3 million to renovate the parking lot with an outdoor plaza and a clock showing the 12 zodiac times that Asians celebrate during the New Year. "If people don't know what year this is, they can look and see that this will be, say, the year of the ox," Loh says. "I view it as an educational art piece."
In recent years, a number of new Asian-centric centers have sprung up around North Texas, but mostly north of Dallas, including Carrollton Town Center and Frisco Ranch. Arlington meanwhile has numerous centers with independently owned places that have coalesced organically.
For Loh and his family, this is a business, but also something more.
"We have a broader vision of preserving tradition and promoting culture," he says. "That's very important to me. I see it in my own children, my nieces and nephews, who lose a little of their roots. I think that by promoting culture, we can experience something unique and learn from each other, to better understand one another."