Nov 20, 2023
One of Dallas' most highly rated sushi restaurants has closed
Sushi News Sushi from Yutaka Sushi Bistro One of Dallas' top sushi restaurants is no more: Yutaka Sushi Bistro , the highly ranked sushi restaurant in Uptown Dallas, closed in August, after 17 years.
Sushi from Yutaka Sushi Bistro
One of Dallas' top sushi restaurants is no more: Yutaka Sushi Bistro, the highly ranked sushi restaurant in Uptown Dallas, closed in August, after 17 years.
Founded in 2006 by chef-owner and Japanese native Yutaka Yamato, the restaurant stood as a beacon of excellence in Dallas' sushi world, earning rave after rave as the best in town.
Chef Yamato first came to Dallas-Fort Worth in 1992 and studied at UNT. Now, he'll return to Japan to spend time with family and start an innovative farm where he'll grow coffee beans.
Coffee is a big deal in Japan, and beans grow best in Okinawa, currently home to around 30 boutique coffee farms, where Yamato is headed.
It's a long-haul experience, since it takes at least three years to get coffee trees off the ground, but it's a new chapter about which he's very excited.
"I'm leaving behind a place that has become a part of me, but I am also excited about my second venture as a farmer," he says.
At Yutaka, Yamato brought a level of perfection and precision in a cozy storefront at 2633 McKinney Ave. that was distinctly authentic: named for its owner in true Japanese fashion, with a limited number of tables and a 10-seat sushi bar where Yamato would place freshly-wrought selections on your plate in a manner similar to an omakase (without calling it omakase).
His food was authentic with occasional Western influences, and his proficient technique was always a delight on dishes such as gyoza, filled with spicy tuna and pan-seared until the exterior was pleasingly crunchy.
Minimalist flower arrangements and a serene ambience all combined to create a transformative experience, like stepping into a small restaurant in Japan. Going there always felt like you were in the know.
Yutaka Yamato, chef-owner at Yutaka Sushi Bistro, with friend and chef Michael Scott.Photo courtesy of Juliet Thomas Urushima
"Opening the restaurant was a dream come true for me, a true adventure that required hard work and dedication," he says. "And from the moment we opened our doors, we were met with an overwhelming response and a warm reception from the community."
Prior to opening Yutaka, Yamato worked with Chris Ward for five years at acclaimed restaurants such as Citizen and The Mercury. He also worked at Royal Tokyo and at Nobu, both in Dallas and New York.
During his time in Dallas, he: collaborated on high-profile dinners with chefs like David Uygur from Lucia; served as consulting sushi chef for Legends Hospitality at AT&T Stadium; and was on the Texas-regional Epicurean World Masters Chef Society team, cooking in competitions recognized as the worldwide culinary Olympics.
It could be said that he achieved all he needed to but his departure is a loss and also the end of an era. Dallas' sushi scene has improved greatly in recent years but Yamato lent a hand in propelling it to the state it is today.
The Yutaka space has been taken over by a young couple who will open a restaurant called Maji Sushi. They hope to keep many of his menu items, and Yamato is currently assisting them with training and staffing while he waits for permission from the country of Japan to bring along his dog, Mito Chan.
"Japan is very strict about bringing animals into the country, it takes more than six months to get approval," he says. And here's a thing: He's insisting that the dog fly in the airplane cabin and not cargo.
"If he couldn't fly with me, I would take a boat," he says.Yutaka Sushi Bistro