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Restaurant Reviews

Temakeria Brings Two Unusual Concepts to Trinity Groves. Are Either of Them Working?

It's two-dimensional! It's Japanese handrolls! It's surprisingly expensive? The Trinity Groves newcomer is trying to be several things.
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Salmon and yellowtail handrolls at Temakeria in Trinity Groves, on a bespoke temaki holder. Brian Reinhart

Temakeria, the latest spot from Trinity Groves’ new ownership team, has a double-barreled “concept.” First concept: it’s “two-dimensional,” painted entirely in white with black outlines so that the whole space looks like a cartoon. All kinds of scenes are drawn onto the walls, including a fireplace, books, windows, an aquarium, and a taxidermied stag’s head. Even chairs and bar stools are white with black edges. The bathroom door is a black outline on a white wall, with a black-and-white outlined sign; I waited until someone used it to make sure it really was a bathroom.

The second concept is a culinary focus on Japanese handroll sushi. Temaki, known as handrolls in English, are originally a quick-service snack for hungry diners in a rush. Chefs lay down a sheet of nori (dried seaweed paper), add a tuft of rice, top it with seafood or other fillings, then quickly wrap the nori around the fillings and hand the roll directly to the customer, who eats right away. There’s very little time for picture-taking or other delays, because the longer you wait, the stiffer and stickier the seaweed will become. If you dawdle, you’ll bite into the handroll and it will all fall apart.

The folks behind Temakeria are imagining this like a one-two punch: lure people in with quirky decorations, then keep them coming back for good sushi. Right now, both concepts are working decently well, but both fall short of what I hoped for before I entered.

Let’s start with the dining room. It is impressive how much they’ve pared down to black and white: the straws, the napkins, the black-outlined wall outlets, the menus (which, hey, also saves on toner). Even the little stands on which your handrolls arrive are black and white. The result closely resembles the first black-and-white decorated restaurant, a coffee shop called Greem Cafe that opened in Seoul in 2017.

The problem is with lighting. If you really want everyone stumbling around a two-dimensional room, their eyes popping from optical illusion zaniness, you have to light every square inch of white to the same brightness. Some booths at Temakeria are genuinely dark, while the bar is vividly clear. It’s kind of weird.

As for the handrolls: these are not Japanese-style temaki. These are bigger versions of a kind of Korean roll served at Mari in New York, loosely based on Korean gimbap. Is this resemblance intentional? Or is the key in the name Temakeria: is this a combination of temaki and tacos?

I mentioned sushi holder stands above. This, handroll devotees know, is not typical. Some rolls at other restaurants are shaped like little cones and come in test tube racks, but most are rolled up and handed to customers directly. At Temakeria, the rolls are more like tacos. They’re served in taco holders, and they look like tacos, with the seaweed acting as the tortilla. Served “open-faced” (is that the right word for sushi?), the rolls are also topped with loads of decoration. The salmon handroll boasts crisped-up salmon skin “chicharrones,” and my yellowtail roll came with a blanket of crispy “yucca crunch” bits, like panko breadcrumbs. When I took a bite, they scattered everywhere: the counter, my shirt, my lap. My favorite handroll here, with fatty toro, was balanced by small slivers of takuan (pickled daikon).

This jumbo size allows Temakeria to import some classic sushi rolls into the handroll format, like the rainbow roll, which doesn’t make sense if you’re wrapping your temaki shut. Roll size was a problem for me—if you can’t take big enough bites, everything falls out, no matter how carefully the (very skilled) sushi bar team has put it together.

Some diners online are flinching at the economics, too. My three handrolls were filling by themselves, and I’d stick to three on future visits. They were also $30 plus tax and tip, and my waiter suggested getting an appetizer, which I foolishly did, pushing my bill to $50 for one lunch. Compare this to Nori Handroll Bar in Deep Ellum, where $33 gets you a filling set menu of five, not three, handrolls. At Komé on Walnut Hill Lane, $28.50 gets you six.

Temakeria denied to the Dallas Morning News that the menu is Mexican-influenced, but embracing that heritage could be a savvy move. Trinity Groves’ culinary director is Julian Rodarte, the founding chef of Tex-Mex spot Beto & Son. His fingerprints are perceptible all over this “Japanese” menu: yucca crunch, salmon chicharrones, poke nachos, chimichurri. And, of course, taco holders.

If Rodarte’s crew embraces the Mexican angle, they can develop signature dishes in a very real, delicious culinary fusion tradition. But when Dallas food lovers say they wish our city had more eccentric, risk-taking restaurants to visit, I am not sure that this version of Temakeria is what they have in mind.

Temakeria, 3011 Gulden Ln., Ste. 102

Author

Brian Reinhart

Brian Reinhart

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Brian Reinhart became D Magazine's dining critic in 2022 after six years of writing about restaurants for the Dallas Observer and the Dallas Morning News.
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