|photography by Kevin Hunter Marple|
February tends to be a particularly frigid month in Dallas. The air gets frosty. The wind whips about. And, for those who work downtown, the cold, hard skyscrapers create an unforgiving wind tunnel that makes businesspeople long for a nice, simple hot meal for lunch.
“Soup does sound good right now,” concurred a co-worker of mine as he bundled up before slipping out of his warm car and hurrying toward Tei An, one of the newest restaurants at the popular One Arts Plaza development. Sitting on the eastern edge of the burgeoning Dallas Arts District, One Arts is quickly becoming a foodie hotspot, and Tei An might just be the most delicious of the development’s offerings.
Tei An owner Teiichi “Teach” Sakurai has long been celebrated as one of Dallas’ most thoughtful restaurateurs. His sushi bar Teppo and Japanese robata bar Tei Tei were the leaders of authentic Japanese cuisine in Dallas. Sakurai recently sold both restaurants to open Tei An and focus on something new yet still distinctly Japanese: a soba noodle house. Thin and nutty, the buckwheat noodles are popular in Japan. Sakurai makes them by hand daily and serves them both hot and cold, which leads us back to the soup my chilled co-worker eagerly anticipated.
Tei An’s hot soba soups are large enough to share, especially if you start with appetizers such as fried shishito peppers. The deliciously mild, long, green peppers were lightly fried and bite size. I recommend also ordering some of Tei An’s tempura. Forget the greasy, lumpy versions you’ve had at mediocre hibachi tables. In chef Sakurai’s hands, the batter is whisper thin with a delicate crunch. Be daring and go for something unusual like sea eel. It’s the best tempura in town.
|USING HIS NOODLE: Teiichi Sakurai’s homemade noodles are featured in dishes like curry soba.|
Now it’s time for the soup. Though you can also go for the hot and cold soba dipping dishes—where you dip the noodles in any of a number of sauces like creamy Japanese yam and peanuty black sesame—it’s the hot soba soup that will warm your soul best. The duck soba was hearty, with rich bits of the gamey fowl. The fragrant curry soba was complex and spicy, but not too fiery. At lunch, each order of soba comes with musubi, a generous rice ball wrapped in nori (dried seaweed). The best of the musubi choices is the plum. It’s pulpy, sweet, and slightly bitter—a nice foil to the spicy curry broth.
Much like the soups, Tei An is meant to be savored, not hurried. The minimalist interior features soft concrete walls, dark polished wood, pebbled benches, and an elevated stone garden. It’s serenity amid the bustle of downtown and a welcome respite to a hurried workday. My co-worker and I certainly appreciated the change of pace. As we finished our meal, we looked at the front door, listened to the wind, and reconsidered our coats. “Well, we haven’t tried the poached egg soba yet,” my tablemate suggested. I hastily agreed. Damn the wind and work. There were noodles yet to be slurped.
1722 Routh St.
Average lunch entrée price $12
Southland Corp. executives, Dallas’ Japanese community
FULL BAR: Yes
THE POWER TABLE: A semi-private room with sliding screens that can accommodate up to 16 guests.