Jimmy Park pulls a long blade through the blush fat-rippled flesh of aged toro. You can tell a lot by the way he wields the knife—methodically, each identical stroke produces slice after slice of tuna quadrilaterals. Every cut demands intense focus and intention. It’s almost meditative. He grimaces slightly, feeling the 100-hour work week with no days off in the strained fibers of his fascia. His muscles are fatigued from the repetitive carving motion. He cracks his neck. It’s as tight as the skin on pristine fish flown in that morning from somewhere much less land-locked than Dallas.
You see Park has been prepping for weeks (and, really, much longer) to open Shoyo, his new 12-seat omakase sushi restaurant in Lowest Greenville. After two weeks of back-to-back 17-course omakase mock services, it officially opened June 22.
Park, a veteran of Nobu who helped open Pok the Raw Bar and Nori Handroll Bar, works alongside executive master sushi chef Shin Kondo, a former Nobu executive chef who’s simply referred to as Shinsan (-san, being an honorific in Japanese). Though Park and Shinsan are bone-tired, it’s worth it, Park says, to convey their distinct approach to sushi to Dallas.
Shoyo’s dining setup is quite simple: two seatings per night, two sushi set offerings. The simplicity, though, belies a flurry of logistics: the timing is a delicate dance of service and coordination of 17 courses in the span of two hours.
The Edo sushi set ($125), as the name implies, focuses on Edomae-style sushi, which is to say classic in flavor and traditional in technique. The Sho set ($175), on the other hand, offers Park and Shinsan’s own style and flair. Fish may be topped with truffles or caviar, whereas the Edo sushi won’t stray from the standard sweep of soy sauce or sprinkle of salt.
Shoyo means “brilliant craftsmanship” in Japanese, which to Park also means they “need to be different from everyone else.” But the challenge of playing within the confines of sushi tradition while being creative is what Park loves most. Such are the ways of navigating a centuries-old craft. “We need to be different and think outside of the box yet not break the rules,” says Park, as he fine-chops squid down into a melt-in-your-mouth creamy texture, dollops of which are destined to sit atop mounds of white rice.
“Whatever you’re craving, you can come to Shoyo and get something crazy or get something light, simple.” There are plenty of people who lean toward the “something crazy” more often that not. “But that’s Dallas, right?” says Park, smiling. He’s not showing all of his cards just yet. Park and Shinsan have some surprises in store in terms of ingredients they’re pairing with sushi. You’ll just have to book a reservation to find out exactly what that means. Alas, Shoyo is booked solid through the second week of July. The best way to score a seat is by stalking reservation updates on Resy where the books will open up on the first of the month at midnight.
The premise of brilliant craftsmanship extends to the design, too. The windowless façade feels both moody and modern, with a dark wood slat door reminiscent of Japanese entrances. Inside a small dining room with 12 seats bears simple white-tiled walls. Custom-made ceramic dinnerware is forthcoming (the artist, too, takes time with his craft), so for now sushi is placed inside shallow bowls that look like the ceramic facsimile of a spike-less uni shell.
From the plates to the playlist, Park ensures nothing is overlooked. The entirety of the experience is comprised of not only the food, but the service, which should strike that balance of attentive yet warm. Once the TABC license is secured, there will be a menu of wine, beer, sake, and a small lineup of Japanese whisky. There will eventually be a small patio, plus to-go offerings.
Do note: No shows and cancellations less than 48 hours before your reservation will have a $125 fee per person. Each course and meal is planned exactly for each guest; do be respectful of that craft and care. Dinner will also begin promptly. If you arrive late, you’ll begin your meal on whichever current course, no go-backs!
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Rosin Saez is the online dining editor for D Magazine's food blog SideDish. She hails from Seattle, Washington, where she…