Pearl, a new sushi restaurant, opened Thursday on the buzzy west side of Knox-Henderson, and its kitchen is helmed by a young chef with big ambitions.
Shine Tamaoki was born in Yamanashi, Japan, and grew up between Japan and his father’s horse training ranch in Colorado. After his dad built a ranch in Whitesboro, about 70 miles north of Dallas, Tamaoki moved to North Texas for high school and enrolled at the University of North Texas to study business. After a few years working at a small mom-and-pop shop while in school, Tamaoki, 32, spent the next seven at Nobu Dallas learning how to make sushi.
“Being Japanese led me to sushi right away, it is my comfort zone within food,” he says. “At Nobu, I realized sushi was my passion.”
Pearl is a place for sushi experts and beginners to dive into, Tamaoki says, and he means it. He met his business partner, the lawyer Todd Landis, at Nobu. Landis often travels for work, which has included more than 45 trips to Japan. He often came into the restaurant with his young daughter, Naomi, who was new to sushi.
Through Tamaoki’s sushi and weekly trips to Nobu, Naomi graduated from eating California rolls to trying more than 55 different types of fish.
“It was kind of a bond for us,” Tamaoki says. “Every time Naomi comes [in], I’m gonna get a new fish ready and prepared so that a 7- or 8-year-old could eat it.”
(Naomi is also the name of Tamaoki’s mother, and their name is displayed in the restaurant in Japanese calligraphy painted by a local artist.)
Tamaoki says making food approachable starts with the eyes. Food, especially raw fish, should look visually appealing, but not overly extravagant. When it comes to approachable taste, Tamaoki wants to play with heat, acidity, and Japanese ingredients to elevate the flavors of the fish.
A full menu isn’t available, but Tamaoki says he has a selection of rolls on the menu, including one in honor of his business partner, who is from Philadelphia. It’s a wagyu miso cream cheese roll, and it’s the only cream cheese you’ll find in the restaurant.
He’s working on incorporating flavors from his hometown of Yamanashi, a city known for its abundance of peaches, plums, and grapes. Tamaoki says he’s most excited to showcase oysters and sashimi dishes.
“[They’re] usually four to five ingredients,” he says. “It’s the fish itself—as fresh as I can get it from Japan, New Zealand, east coast, west coast—and then I’ll elevate it with a little bit of heat and olive oil.”
The beverage program will be run by Tamaoki’s wife, Kaya. She spent seven years at Tei-An and will curate cocktails like the White Pearl, a vodka-based drink with lychee puree, lime juice, elderflower syrup, egg white, and plum bitters.
The restaurant has a sushi bar that fits nine people as well as tables throughout the space for larger groups. Omakase will be highlighted once a month, but guests may request it any day of the week. Later, Tamaoki wants to use the window on the side of the building, which faces McKinney Avenue, for to-go orders.
It’s quite a time for Japanese concepts in Dallas. There are omakase concepts like Tatsu and new addition Yūjō, upscale spots like Uchi and Namo, and casual sushi restaurants Oishii and Mr. Sushi.
Dallas is hungry for sushi. Pearl is ready to join the scene.
4640 McKinney Ave., Unit 130. Reservations can be made on the Pearl website.