When Teiichi Sakurai and Masa Otaka came to West Texas from Japan for their school’s study-abroad program, it was under the auspices of studying aircraft mechanics. As disparate as they sound, it actually was a very small leap from said discipline to that of chefs.
“We were both going to go back (to Japan) after we finished our course,” says Otaka, head chef at Greenville Avenue’s Teppo, of his longtime friend and boss, Sakurai, Teppo’s owner.
“But we were both so poor, we had to have some sort of part-time job. We started out together in hibachi/Benihana-style classes in West Texas. That was our first time.”
In a city known for its quantity of quality restaurants, the two friends have collaborated sine Teppo’s opening to set what is considered the sushi/yakatori standard for Dallas.
“When we first opened, there weren’t many sushi restaurants,” Otaka says. “All of the owners used to come here and steal the menus. Everybody can make sushi now. There are sushi bars with owners who are different nationalities, so we try and do things only Japanese can do.”
What sets them apart is a deftness with their regular dishes, the aforesaid sushi, grilled meats, seafood and vegetables on skewers called yakatori, and their willingness to experiment with them. Asian fusion, the practice of mixing traditional Asian flavors and textures with culinary components from other regions, has caught on across the world. On the cutting edge at Teppo, the specials menu typically features many Asian fusion-inspired dishes.
“They’re all doing the same stuff,” Otaka says. “We try to do something unusual. We try to change the special menu every day, so that our customers can look at the menu and say: Let’s have something different today.”
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