Nothing about Tatsu, a new omakase restaurant in Dallas, is any secret. But everything about it feels like it should be.
This small Deep Ellum restaurant has no menu and does not allow tipping. It’s a surprisingly trendy spot tucked away in one of Dallas’ oldest commercial structures, the Continental Gin Building, which dates back to 1888. This brand new but very old building can only accommodate 10 people at a time.
Its sushi chef and namesake, Tatsuya Sekiguchi, could have built a bigger sushi bar and packed more people each night. But he never would have.
“We don’t want it to be flashy or trendy,” says restaurant owner Matthew Ciccone. Maybe he blushed when we listed Tatsu as one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s most exciting restaurants of the year.
“This will be Tatsu’s house,” Ciccone said. “And there is only one Tatsu.”
Meaning: There can only be one dining hall serving food.
Thanks to Ciccone’s persistence, Chef Sekiguchi and his wife Hiroko Sekiguchi left New York in the midst of the pandemic and moved to Dallas. Sekiguchi is a fourth-generation sushi chef who most recently worked at the Michelin-starred Sushi Yasuda restaurant. Ciccone loved this restaurant.
Their new Dallas restaurant, which will open May 25, 2022, brings elements of the chef’s New York restaurant to Ciccone’s home state of Texas. And it’s Sekiguchi’s next effort to bring a Michelin-level restaurant to unprecedented heights. (Michelin doesn’t publish a guide in Texas. Not yet, anyway.)
“We hope to be one of the pioneering restaurants to bring Michelin to Texas,” Ciccone said.
The owner and chef are quietly confident that Tatsu’s omakase experience will serve sustainable fish in an elegant setting that is all about reverence and respect for food.
Ciccone balks at today’s “as you like” fast food model – places that operate unsustainably and are driven by low prices rather than quality products. Rather than “do it your way,” Ciccone says, “let’s go back to the old way.”
Chef Sekiguchi’s style of sushi preparation is called edomae and uses 200-year-old techniques for preserving fish.
Ciccone is a plant eater who almost never indulges in raw fish prepared by Sekiguchi. Ciccone is obsessed with sustainable eating and proper portions and says Tatsu can deliver both. Thus, twice a year, he will allow himself to enjoy Sekiguchi’s food for a special occasion.
“No, probably once,” he corrects himself.
It’s true: the owner of this Japanese restaurant will only eat here once this year, when it opens.
Diners should expect around 18 dishes, mostly raw fish, prepared right in front of them by Sekiguchi and assistant chef Jon Griffiths. They bought a special freezer just for tuna. Ciccone ordered it in the middle of the pandemic, after a hospital didn’t need it to keep its COVID-19 vaccines cool.
Dinner is $170 per person and an 18% service charge is added to each bill. Reservations are for one of two dinner shifts, at 5:30 p.m. or 7:45 p.m., and the meal is expected to last 1 hour and 45 minutes.
This is the second restaurant in Dallas that serves omakase in a tiny dining room. Unaffiliated restaurant Shoyo opened in East Dallas in 2021.
Getting to Tatsu also feels a bit secretive: there’s no valet parking — a rarity in Dallas — because the Continental Gin Building has a large parking lot out front, just off Elm Street. Diners will find Tatsu on one side of the building, with the front door leading to an artwork of an original wooden door from 1888 that has been tagged with street art.
Past this small vestibule is a lounge, then two rooms with sushi bars. They won’t be used at the same time because, again: “There is only one Tatsu.”
And should we share the toilet secret? They have Toto toilets in there, a (expensive) way to prove that this restaurant cares about its customers, wherever they are seated.
It already looks like Tatsu is becoming Dallas’ most low-key upscale restaurant.
Tatsu is at 3309 Elm St., Dallas, on the first floor of the Continental Gin Building. Reservations are required via Tock and payment is collected in advance. The restaurant opens on May 25, 2022.