by Steven Doyle
Opening in 2016 Niwa brings true Japanese BBQ (yakiniku) to Deep Ellum on Main Street. Similar to Korean BBQ, which most of our readers might be familiar with, the Japanese have a bit more finesse.
In a Korean BBQ restaurant, you’ll usually be served with marinated meat that’s ready for grilling. It is also not uncommon for the servers to cut the meat for you using scissors and to actually grill them right in front of you. Meats on yakiniku restaurants, on the other hand, are generally not marinated when served. Instead, the cut pieces of meat are neatly served on a plate together with raw vegetables. Consider yakiniku a higher quality meal choice with better cuts of meat and ventilation system. You will not walk away smelling of grilled meats, although that could be considered a higher form of pheromone.
Owned and operated by executive chef and restaurateur Jimmy Niwa, the restaurant combines traditional Japanese recipes and techniques from his upbringing with modern and unique techniques and blends from Jimmy’s creative and refined food palette from years of consulting for different restaurants. Jimmy was a server in college and worked his way up from server to manager, to chef, to consultant for many restaurants in California and now, to restaurateur.
Niwa definitely serves the highest quality and grade of meats, from rib eye steak, wagyu beef (A5 on our occasion) to filet mignon to grill right at your table. Dining at Niwa is about the experience and its focus is the quality of the meats and subtle layers of flavors in each menu item.
The a la carte menu boasts 13 meat options including the highest grade wagyu, unique Japanese-inspired cocktails, a full bar with wines, Japanese beers including a rare white beer on draft and sakes. Some of the popular cocktails include Black Walnut Class, Shisho Honey and the Spicy Brass Monkey. They have two private rooms and open late on Fridays and Saturdays.
On our recent visit we experienced what Niwa brings to their customers each night with super high quality food, a fun group activity and impeccable service. Look for some fantastic shareable dishes (oh, the Hamachi crudo), noodles, and seafood besides the layout of delicious meats. We especially enjoyed the cod en papillote which is a wrapped paper filled with a piece of cod in miso broth and an assortment of mushrooms. The papillote is placed on the grill and steamed before presented by your server. The broth is liquid gold. The cod quite literally melts in your mouth. Pure joy.
The meats are simply the highest quality you will be able to find, all sliced with finesse and placed on each plate like a work of art. Large chunks of tenderloin are smoked in cherry wood then presented for you to cook on your grill. Beef belly is another delight, along with the Waygu which is a melted meat experience that will have your toes curling. No sauces needed, but provided.
Niwa will soon offer five different bento boxes for take-out during the weekdays and introduce a widely popular day celebrated in Japan called Meat Day. Meat Day happens every 29th of the month because of its play on words with the number two and nine. Combined the two and nine makes the word niku in Japanese which means meat so often many people eat meat on the 29th. The first Meat Day celebration in Dallas will be on Thursday, March 29th. Once Niwa introduces Meat Day we will be all over the special and bring more information to our readers.
Niwa is open seven days a week, which is a bit unusual for Deep Ellum as many restaurants close on Sunday or Monday. On Fridays and Saturdays, they’re open for lunch and stay open mall day until 11 pm. During the Spring and when weather is warmer, they will open their patio until 2am to serve late-night Japanese street and comfort foods like yakitoris (or skewers).
Every Monday is industry night which also includes restaurant workers, medical, city… if you’re serving someone and have proof of it, come dine at Niwa for 50% off all food (excluding special menus), $3 Sapporo Draft & OGD, 1/2 off all Sake.