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Restaurant Reviews

Pearl, Uptown’s New Sushi Destination, Makes a Good First Impression

With the closure of Yutaka, Uptown needed a replacement. This one is more posh and more expensive, but very promising.
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Salmon with chili garlic sauce at Pearl. Seaweed salad in the background. Brian Reinhart

Pearl, the new sushi restaurant from chef Shine Tamaoki, is set up for long-term success. It’s in a neighborhood that lacks top-quality Japanese food, just north of the corner of Knox and McKinney. It blends Japanese tradition and new techniques in a way that should appeal to the neighborhood’s residents. It’s frankly upscale, rather expensive menu works in this affluent area, too.

Most importantly: the results are very good. Over dinner in one of Pearl’s first weeks, we appreciated the restaurant’s balanced flavors and excellent ingredients.

Although Tamaoki told D last month that he’s most excited to serve sushi and sashimi, the standouts on my first visit were the appetizers and composed dishes. Pay especially close attention to the menu page headed “Cold Dishes.” It offers up dressed plates of crudos, sashimis, and fish that’ve been lightly smoked or blowtorched. “Salmon chili garlic” dish proved my favorite bite of the night. The dressing has hints of Southeast Asia: lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar, and a hot pepper. The combination of cool, fatty, tender raw salmon and hot, acidic sauce is irresistible—and the balance is just right. It’s not too much of one thing or the other.

Seaweed salad blends three different varieties of flavors, textures, and colors. It’s dressed delicately, so that the seaweed takes the foreground. (The first sign of a disappointing sushi restaurant is when your seaweed salad tastes like you’re drinking sesame oil.) I also appreciate that all the varieties are named on the menu. That’s the kind of diner education that will help Dallasites be more discerning and knowledgeable about other cuisines.

After those two dishes, our seasonal nigiri plate (featuring six fish, one piece each) and a simple tuna roll were also good, but not quite on the same level. The seafood is clearly excellent quality, and our “tekka” tuna roll came wrapped in seaweed that still had a gentle toasty aroma.

But the rice did not measure up to everything else. It’s the right temperature, perhaps a little drier and less fluffy than the top-notch rice you will find at Shoyo, Tatsu, Ebesu, or Nori Handroll Bar. It could use a bit more vinegar, too, or a more complex mix of vinegars. Sushi rice isn’t meant to taste aggressive, of course, but it is meant to taste of something. When you try the rice at the places listed above, you understand how well that gentle touch of vinegar suits the accompanying fish and makes the fish stand out even more boldly.

For Tamaoki, that might be the last piece of the puzzle. And he’s so young—just 32 years old as he opens his own sushi restaurant—that he will continue learning and growing as a chef. Given the extremely high standards of the “Cold Dishes” and seaweed salad, Pearl looks like a restaurant worth getting excited about.

Two more observations. First, in part because of the clientele in Uptown and the Park Cities, Pearl does a lively trade in “loaded” sushi rolls—the kind that come with two or three fillings, a topping, maybe a blowtorched ingredient. You know: sushi that makes you want to pull out your camera. This might be a smart order, since rice becomes less important as more toppings get piled on.

Second, Pearl is not a place to hunt for bargains. Our dinner for two—which included one bottled beer per guest—came out to $128 after tax and tip. The salmon plate I loved so much was $26; the two priciest sushi rolls come in at $38 each. One of those rolls is topped with gold leaf. (Sigh. Make it stop.) But seafood of this quality and freshness is expensive, and so is the neighborhood. Just make sure you know what to expect.

Pearl, 4640 McKinney Ave., Ste. 130

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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