Brandon Cohanim estimates he'll finish his degree in economics at Southern Methodist University in two years, though he already owns two restaurants. His second, Namo, is a handroll sushi shop that seats 20 people at a horseshoe-shaped bar in Dallas' West Village. It opens Aug. 21, 2018.
You could say 22-year-old Cohanim opened a restaurant in mid-2018 instead of taking summer school, but he actually tried both, then gave up on getting extra college credits over the past three months in favor of focusing on Namo.
Namo is located next door to Cohanim's first restaurant, Pok the Raw Bar, also at West Village. Both restaurants capitalize on the popularity of raw fish, which Cohanim explains as "healthy food that looks delicious." He knows many of his customers will be Instagramming their food, and he's cool with that. "A restaurant is not only about the food -- it's about the experience," he says.
Namo's simple design (which looks nothing like the Kendra Scott jewelry shop that came before it) is black and brown, with hardly any flourishes beyond the sushi bar in the center.
Here are four interesting choices Cohanim made at Namo, Dallas' newest sushi shop.
The menu: handrolls. Like the restaurant design, the menu is simpler than most sushi restaurants in the Dallas area -- ones that tend to that stock menus with Americanized versions of raw-fish rolls alongside salads, soups, mains and more.
"We want to try to perfect this one dish," Cohanim says. Handrolls became the restaurant's single mission.
A handroll is made up of pieces of cold, raw fish and warm rice wrapped inside crispy seaweed. Most of the handrolls at Namo cost about $5, also available in "sets" of three, four, five or six handrolls.
The blue crab handroll is just that: seaweed wrapped around blue crab and warm rice. A few hand rolls, like the salmon or the cucumber, come with a dash of sesame seeds. The most complex handroll is probably the yellowtail, which is raw yellowtail, jalapeno and green onion (alongside the requisite warm rice, wrapped in seaweed). That's the most "Texas" version on the menu, says Cohanim, who is from Beverly Hills, Calif.
He spent five months trying to manage the crispiness of the roasted seaweed he buys. In fact, a packet shipped to the restaurant comes labeled "Brandon's Maki Nori," his special order.
$4 wine and beer, always. Namo is designed to be a quick experience: 30 to 35 minutes, tops. So while Cohanim wanted to serve alcohol, he didn't want patrons staying too long. His answer was to special-order wine and beer glasses that are smaller than usual. That means smaller prices, too: The wine is a 4-ounce pour and the beer is a 10-ouncer; each costs $4.
Nitro green tea. At the same drink station as the beer, wine and sake on tap, Namo servers can pour nitro green tea. Many Dallas diners have seen nitro cold brew, but nitro tea is harder to find.
"I think it's gonna be the next big thing," he says. Cohanim brews it himself, and for now, he's settled on a green tea from Uji, Japan, from a family-owned farm he's visited in person.
The green tea is cold brewed, then stored in a homebrew keg. The drink is a green color, with a frothy, white head.
No tipping. Or, said another way: mandatory, 16-percent tips. Some restaurants in cities like Los Angeles and New York City have adapted a no-tipping policy, and it was one of dining's most hot-button issues of 2017. At Namo, a 16-percent tip is added to every bill.
"I don't want to make people think about tipping," Cohanim says, noting that with the fast-paced environment at Namo, it's just one less thing to do.
Similarly, Namo doesn't accept cash, either.
Cohanim does a good job of making owning a restaurant at 22 years old look effortless. He says he's had entrepreneurial spirit since he was a little kid: "At 7 years old, I was selling lemonade for as much as I could," he jokes.
"I feel this entrepreneurial spirit in the air [in Dallas]. I came here knowing I wanted to do something."