lobster watermelon
A dish involving lobster and watermelon, both of which have their own emojis.

Restaurant is all smiley faces after emoji dinner

Dallas Fish Market finds success in menu based on the tiny icons

Dallas Fish Market, a 10-year-old restaurant fixture in downtown Dallas, is nothing but smiley faces after the success of its first emoji dinner this summer.

The six-course, $65 dinner was a hit, especially among the diners accustomed to texting their culinary wishes and requests, said Nafees Alam, CEO of DRG Concepts, which owns Dallas Fish Market, as well as Dallas Chop House, Wild Salsa and Chop House Burger. The restaurant is already planning version 2.0 later this month.

“It sold out, so we had to ask people to buy seats at the next dinner,” Alam told Nation’s Restaurant News on Tuesday. Dallas Fish Market seats 144 customers, and 42 of those were devoted to the emoji dinner.

Dallas Fish Market CEO Nafees Alam

Emojis, tiny digital icons used to express ideas or emotions in text messages and on social media, have become an international form of communication. Emojis even starred in their eponymous film, “The Emoji Movie,” this summer.

Alam said he was traveling in Asia earlier this year and stumbled upon an ice cream shop in Singapore that offered its menu board in emojis.

“I thought, ‘What a cool idea,’” Alam said. “Everybody now talks in emojis. If they want to go to dinner, they send you an emoji. If they like something, they send you an emoji. It’s like we don’t write anything anymore. It’s all converted into a cute icon.”

Alam returned to Dallas and convinced Dallas Fish Market chef Richard Triptow to create the first six-course menu. George Calderon, DRG Concepts wine and spirits director, paired each course with wine.

The menu was printed in nothing but emojis, leaving diners to figure out the resulting dishes when they appeared.

One of the most popular dishes at the emoji dinner was lobster with watermelon, both of which have their own icons.

“I like the crab emoji,” Alam said. “The lobster emoji is good because of the bright color. The lemon is also a favorite.”

Alam said the restaurant will likely offer the emoji dinner quarterly as part of its monthly series of dinners, which also include champagne and caviar, sushi and sake, and ramen and sake.

The restaurant also asks attendees about dietary restrictions before the dinner, which must be relayed in words because so few emojis cover allergies.

The side benefit for Dallas Fish Market was the increased attention on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Alam said.

“It was a really fun dinner,” he said. “They [guests] took a lot of photos and posted on social media.”

The format also allowed for a lot of interaction between the chef and his guests, who submitted their owns ideas for later emoji dishes, Alam said.

“We’re doing the Emoji Dinner 2.0 on Oct. 26,” he added. “It’s like an update of your iPhone.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

TAGS: Food Trends
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