North Texas Daily

Longtime restaurant Keiichi rolls together Japanese, Italian cuisine

Longtime restaurant Keiichi rolls together Japanese, Italian cuisine

Longtime restaurant Keiichi rolls together Japanese, Italian cuisine
August 28
18:00 2018

Although it has existed in Denton for 12 years, the small restaurant, Keiichi (pronounced kay-ee-chee), located on North Elm Street is unknown to most local residents.

The building sits on a small barren lot across from the eclectic Sleeping Lizzards gift and craft shop. With tinted black windows and a hooded roof, the restaurant does not boast much. In fact, most people would not assume it is a restaurant at first glance. However, inside the oyster lies the pearl.

Keiichi has built up a substantive customer base solely by the quality of its food, both Japanese and Italian. Chef Keiichi Nagano, the sole chef and life of the restaurant, received his culinary experience from Japan but has also worked at high-end restaurants such as Pappas Bros Steakhouse. With Keiichi, however, Nagano makes his own rules. Every day, he creates a whole new menu.

“Whatever I’m interested in making, I make,” Nagano said. “I buy the produce then make the menu. Other restaurants make the menu before buying the ingredients. This is why my menus are different every day. The prices are different too — different market price, different menu.”

According to Nagano, this is what sets his restaurant apart from others, although he does not like to dwell on comparisons.

“I don’t really care about other restaurants,” Nagano said.

Keiichi is a Japanese and Italian restaurant located on Elm st run by chef Keiichi Nagano. The restaurant is reservation only based due to its limited seating. Claire Lin

The cost of dining at Keiichi is no small fee. The restaurant boasts three to four dollar signs on restaurant rating apps. A romantic dinner for two, including drinks and dessert, may run anywhere between $100-$200.

On top of the high costs, it is sometimes incredibly difficult to secure a reservation. Keiichi is a reservation-only restaurant and there are even rumors that customers have to make reservations weeks or months in advance. The restaurant only seats approximately eight people at the bar and has a separate room for a small party.

Regardless of all this, customers continue to come back for more.

Reviews on the app Yelp offer spectacular insights into just how good the food is. Crowd favorites include the beef and jalapeño cream cheese sushi and the beef tenderloin steak. Customers marvel at how Chef Keiichi can get fish so fresh in a place like Denton.

“Truly a five-star experience,” Jared Jackson, 30, said on Yelp. “Be sure you’re ready to spend some cash because once you start, you’ll want to try every dish. They’re all phenomenal.”

“Keiichi might be one of the best-kept secrets in Denton because people truly have no idea that it’s a restaurant,” customer and recent UNT graduate Hannah Frosch, 22, said. “However, you must go! Seriously, our plates were bare at the end of the night.”

Keiichi is a local Japanese and Italian restaurant that has been serving customers for 12 years. The reviews on Yelp raved about the restaurant being a crowdpleaser. Claire Lin

But why Denton, of all the places to have a phenomenal restaurant?

The answer was simple for the chef.

“I liked the property,” Nagano said. “And I had friends living here.”

Nagano plans to continue serving people quality food until he retires, but he is not sure if he will return to Japan.

“I go back there once a year,” Nagano said. “My mom is there.”

Nagano’s only family here is his wife. He visits Japan usually every September.

The restaurant will be closed from this coming Sept. 2 to Oct. 2.

Featured Image: Chef Keiichi Nagano stands in his kitchen, preparing ingredients before opening hours that afternoon. Chef Nagano is the only chef at Keiichi and has been operating it for 12 years. Claire Lin

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Claire Lin

Claire Lin

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