Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
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Restaurant Reviews

Yes, You Can Have a Premium Omakase Experience Over Your Lunch Break

If you have not been to Namo for a while, you may not understand anymore quite how serious—and how seriously good—this Uptown spot has become.
photograph by Brian Reinhart / illustration by Andrea Chavez

Namo opened five years ago as a casual, quick handroll sushi bar in the West Village. But the Namo that exists today is not the Namo that we knew back then. Its intentions have gotten more serious, its sourcing more careful, and its commitment to the craft of sushi ever deeper. During the pandemic, many restaurants cut corners. Namo did exactly the opposite: where it had cut corners before (in early days, its handrolls were made with pre-mashed-up seafood), it stopped taking those shortcuts. If anything, it added even more corners by finding a direct vendor in Japan to place orders for its fish. In the early days, Namo was fast food. Now it wants to be one of the best sushi restaurants in Texas.

Readers tell us that the best time to see the new Namo is on Wednesday nights, when the restaurant serves omakase menus as long, extravagant, and expensive as those at Tatsu or Shoyo. If you’re not ready to drop $225 per person (plus drinks) on that omakase, though, there’s a very good alternative: visit Namo for lunch.

The truly opulent lunch is common in Europe. If you want to visit a multi-Michelin-starred restaurant in France or Spain without affecting your credit rating, many of them offer lunch menus that resemble a greatest-hits album: all the fan favorites in an affordable, concise package.

Right now, Namo’s lunch okonomi might be the best luxury-bargain midday meal in Dallas. Yes, $75 is a lot for lunch, but it’s not a lot for what you get, which is a first-class sushi experience compressed into about 45 minutes (plus time to order and pay the bill). It’s a great option if you want to try an omakase experience but are intimidated by the formality and expense of a place like Tatsu—or if you love omakase, but didn’t score seats this month.

When we visited before Thanksgiving, Namo’s lunch okonomi was seven courses: a quick daikon and bonito flake salad, two kinds of composed sashimi, chawanmushi (egg custard topped with salmon roe), a board of six nigiri pieces, a Wagyu beef tostada, and miso soup. Hamachi sashimi slices were folded and tucked into a line with serrano pepper slices and purple potato chips. Stack all three elements on your chopsticks, and the result is a harmony of flavor and texture between indulgent fish, pepper heat, sweet ponzu, and the crisp chip. The skipjack sashimi, meanwhile, was a garlic party, topped with garlic sauce and fried garlic chips that brought out the ingredient’s sweet funk rather than its raw bite.

Our main event was the nigiri plate, with five fish and freshwater eel sliced carefully, draped over rice, and topped with appropriate accompaniments (like a dab of fresh wasabi for the salmon). Our nigiri was served in flavor order, lightest to boldest left to right, with pickled ginger at the end. Namo clearly makes its pickled ginger: the pickling liquid is milder and more aromatic than normal, so the ginger doesn’t have the aggressive bite of the jarred kind you find at many sushi spots.

The Wagyu meatball tostada, on bubbly fried gyoza dough, was my least favorite bite, but I’m a seafood guy all the way, so you’re welcome to disregard my opinion. (Wagyu’s lingering ribbons of fat made it hard to eat this in more than one bite, but it was so indulgent I’d rather not down it all at once.) To finish, Namo served the earthiest, deepest, most warm-weather miso soup I’ve had in Dallas. It’s made with red miso, which also colors the broth to a deep shade and camouflages the tiny mushrooms hidden inside.

Right now, Namo is overshadowed by its brand-new neighbor, the French aperitif spot Bar Colette, which comes from the same owner, Brandon Cohanim (who has yet to turn 30). Bar Colette just opened with deluxe touches like caviar and a cocktail program designed by a veteran of a Michelin-starred Miami restaurant.

But that’s the thing with focusing on what’s new or conflating new with hot. You’ll miss the really exciting stuff that’s happening right next door. For about half our meal, my companion and I were the only people eating at Namo. But Namo spent its pandemic rebuilding its supply chain, refocusing on quality ingredients, hiring a new executive chef (Kazuhito Mabuchi, who moved from Los Angeles), and replacing its old concept with a menu that takes full advantage of Dallas’ thriving Japanese food scene and our airport’s quick access to Tokyo’s fish markets. Exciting things are happening at Namo—and you can try most of them in one quick lunch.


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.