Dallas has its share of sushi restaurants and other Japanese-style cuisine but Imran Sheikh couldn’t find anything with a Peruvian influence like he had when he was growing up in London.
So, the restaurateur founded Nikkei, a new concept that blends the unique flavors of Japanese-Peruvian food at 2404 Cedar Springs Road, suite 400 in Uptown Dallas.
“There was nothing really bringing it all together. I wanted to speak to the richness of both cultures,” Sheikh said. “I know there’s an inherent love for Japanese food and sushi but also I think taking the Peruvian element, the spices, the aromas, the flavors and adding them to Dallas, which is quite a lover of its proteins--lamb, Wagyu beef and prawns--will be very popular.”
The multi-story restaurant had a packed house for its grand opening on March 2.
For Sheikh, this is the third business he’s opened in Dallas in the last 15 months, the others being the Citizen Lounge in Uptown and Stirr in Deep Ellum.
The name of the restaurant was inspired by the Nikkei people, the name given to the Japanese who live in a foreign country. In Peru specifically, Nikkei became the name of the Japanese people the cuisine created by the blending of the two cultures.
To really get a feel for the food and culture, Sheikh traveled to Lima, Peru.
“I was absolutely blown away by the culinary experience that I had there. Some are even calling it the culinary capital of the world now,” he said.
The menu features everything from Cordero (lamb chop with miso brown butter, baby beets and mustard caviar) to Pulpo (braised octopus, carrots, relish and heirloom tomatoes).
The waitstaff have all been thoroughly educated on each dish to help customers make choices on items they may not be familiar with.
Nick Harrison, corporate chef for Nikkei, brings more than 20 years experience in the restaurant industry.
“We truly believe the menu, while intricate, is still very approachable,” Harrison said. “Dishes like the Wagyu beef, prawns and ceviche all feature proteins people are comfortable with but add Nikkei’s twist in terms of flavor profiles.”
James Fuller, director of operations for Milkshake Concepts, personal favorite is the salmon ceviche.
“Being from Oregon, I grew up eating fresh seafood and this dish at Nikkei fuses fresh Ora King salmon with exquisite flavors that really do make for a fantastic dish,” Fuller said.
The restaurant and bar are located on the second floor of the building and there’s a rooftop bar on the third level.
The Japanese influence is evident when you walk in the door with several huge 19th century paintings on the stairway walking up. Bold neon blue and pink colors greet you when you reach the restaurant and bar.
“I wanted a dining room setting that really gave the appropriate vibe,” Sheikh said.
On the third floor, the rooftop bar provides scenic views of Uptown and downtown Dallas. Sheikh said the rooftop bar is a “vital component” for all his businesses. Diners tend to stay longer and drink more if they are in a relaxed outside environment, Sheikh said. For the grand opening they had 200 people up there.
Over the years, Nikkei has had many uses, including nightclubs and restaurants. The rooftop has never been used for anything so the team had to design a staircase, elevator and flooring and make sure everything was up to code.
“With Nikkei, it’s a second and third floor business so construction was more challenging than other build-outs we have done,” Fuller said.
Sheikh and Asim Sheikh are the co-owners of Milkshake Concepts, which also owns Stirr and Citizen Lounge. The Milkshake name is a play on words with how their last names are pronounced.
The Sheikhs, who are not related, have their hands full for now but could bring more concepts to Dallas in the future.
“There are a lot of wonderful opportunities that we’ve been presented with,” Imran Sheikh said. “I think we’ll just very carefully consider what our next step is just because as much as I love growth and progression I want to make sure everything we’re standing upon has a strong foundation.”