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The dining room and sushi bar at Toko V

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by Dotty Griffith | Photography by Claire McCormack | Modern Luxury Dallas magazine | January 9, 2014

Finally, with the sexy-chic Toko V in town, the Highland Park Village food-and-beverage trio in the space formerly known as Marquee Grill is complete, with the “new Asian” eatery setting up shop on the second floor, Village Kitchen occupying the ground floor, and The Marquee Bar nesting above the HPV theater marquee. But give Toko V its top-billing due.

Executive Chef Andre Natera, who landed in Dallas as chef at the Fairmont Hotel’s Pyramid Room, and his culinary team have crafted a stylish menu for an upscale Dallas audience with dishes that combine Asian flavors with everyday accessibility. Offbeat yet familiar dishes, like Japanese-style fried chicken (wondrous juicy mouthfuls beneath a crispy thin skin), and pristine sashimi of super white tuna (sheer slices of escolar with seared edges in a puddle of yuzu, Japanese citrus juice), seduce and satisfy both adventurous and reserved palates. Meanwhile, former Steel Restaurant Head Sushi Chef Daniel Chau definitely shows his chops as overseer of the sushi menu at Toko V. Like Natera, he clearly understands and caters to his target diner.

The menu also reflects the full panoply of American-Asian options: salads, small plates, noodle bowls, sushi rolls and nigiri, sashimi and “big plates.” That’s where beef comes in: Korean-style barbecue ribs of the finger-licking school are sticky, sweet, spicy and amazing paired with Renteria Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley 2007), which is full-bodied, robust and vital on the palate, not jammy or over-berried. But if unsure of what wine will best complement all the tantalizing Asian flavors, just ask. Waitstaff is very knowledgeable about the food, the wine and how best to pair them. But know that Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc (Alsace France 2010) is on the list specifically to match with sushi. Light and mineraly, this fluttery wine is the answer to, “What goes with…?” With wine comes an imaginative cocktail list by mixologist Andrew Lotstetter, along with sake, Asian beer and various teas.

Of the salads, we sampled a couple. Slaw-like shreds of green papaya with tiny, crunchy dried shrimp, radishes and mint in a spicy lime dressing reflect Thai inspirations. But for those craving something more traditional, there’s also mixed greens with Asian pear with a citrus-ginger dressing.

The small-plate menu shines with blistered shishito peppers dressed with Thai sweet chili sauce (eat them with your fingers, like popcorn), while smoked beet wedges, lightly breaded with rice flour then fried (a must-try with wasabi-jazzed mayonnaise), is another sharable option.

Signature dishes such as smoked hamachi (Japanese amberjack) with grapefruit and zingy jalapeno puree are as artful in appearance as they are pleasing to the palate. Don’t pass up swiping a slice through black sea salt dusted on the edge of the platter. The subtle salty crunch is just the right enhancement to maximize and meld the flavors and textures of this stunning sashimi offering. Another sashimi selection is a bit further out there, but delightfully so. Red snapper with longon fruit, similar to a peeled green grape, and kafir lime oil adds a slightly sweet-tart dimension to the creamy white fish.

Unlike many Asian restaurants with strong American influences, Toko V doesn’t forsake its roots and fall back on carrot cake for dessert. Here, the dessert menu is brief but well-covered. There’s a marvelous assortment of ice creams and sorbets (coconut and pineapple on our visit), with black sesame-seed studded meringue, like the classic pavlova. Sweet endings, indeed.

Retro Inspired!
An engaging wall image of an Asian vixen, a la Tokyo Rose, nods to contemporary anime and sets a flirty tenor.

Hot Seat
A gas-fueled fire warms a cozy seating area looking out over the swanky shops and twinkling lights of the village.

Toko to Go
Grab a take-home box of mint macarons—French-inspired meringue sandwich cookies with yuzu filling—on your way out.

Toko V
33 Highland Park Village (upstairs)