Austin is rich in restaurants bringing cuisine from around the world. Our city is particularly blessed with great Japanese food, and we have the creators of Ramen Tatsu-Ya to thank for much of it. As the long lines can attest, Ramen Tatsu-Ya earned its spot in the hearts of Austin ramen lovers long ago. Now the owners and chefs behind Austin’s premiere ramen spot have brought us a new restaurant concept: Kemuri Tatsu-ya.
Located in the former home of Live Oak BBQ on East 2nd Street, Kemuri Tatsu-ya has transformed the space into a casual Japanese eatery with a lot of flair. The interior maintains some of the cozy, comfortable ease of a neighborhood BBQ restaurant. The walls are covered in fun artifacts that are equal parts Japanese advertisements, signage and photos mixed, and touches of Texas pride like cowboy hats and antlers. It’s very much Japanese-inspired, but also undeniably Texan.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Izakaya
The concept behind Kemuri Tatsu-ya is “izakaya with a Texas twist.” Izakaya is a type of laid-back Japanese gastropub. The word originates from the Japanese words for “stay” and “sake shop.” Initially, izakayas were places where people could stop in for a sake after work and get some bar snacks to go with it.
Izakayas have since evolved into proper restaurants in their own right. However, the casual atmosphere of a fun, after-work gathering place still remains. Most of the dishes at Kemuri Tatsu-ya are easy-to-share small plates. That way, your group can get a good sampling of the whole menu.
What’s on the Menu Anyway?
Kemuri Tatsu-ya has a wide selection of small plates that appeal to adventurous and less adventurous palettes. One of their small plates menus even has items arranged by singers to denote which are the most tame and which are the funkiest. You can order from Kenny G all the way to James Brown on the funkiness scale.
The name Kemuri comes from the Japanese word for smoke. As the name suggests, there’s no shortage of smoked meats on the menu. I tried the smoked duck and fish collar jerky and both had a deliciously smokey flavor that wasn’t overpowering. Other smoked meats include eel and pork sausage. You can also try the BBQ Boat that has a selection of several smoked meats.
The menu includes plenty of small plate munchies, snacks and skewers of meat (I particularly enjoyed the beef tongue and chicken hearts). Larger dinner-portion items include several rice dishes and two ramen dishes. Both of the ramen dishes on the menu have brisket in them, in keeping with the Japanese-Texas fusion concept. I also recommend saving room for dessert. The roasted banana pudding with miso caramel is the perfect way to end a meal.
In addition to the great eats, Kemuri Tatsu-ya offers a selection of sakes, shochus and whiskeys, both individually and in flights. They also have some fun cocktails, including “fish bowl” style cocktails that serve two or three and arrive in an adorable ceramic puffer fish. A small selection of beers, sodas and teas are also available.
Ready for Happy Hour at Kemuri Tatsu-ya?
Kemuri Tatsu-ya is currently not accepting reservations to keep the feeling of a casual, walk-in gathering place. They are open every night of the week, except Mondays and Tuesdays, from 5:30 to 11 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, their hours extend to midnight. The next time your crew is looking for a place to gather for happy hour and a skewer or two of smoked meats, you’ll know just the place to suggest!
2713 E. 2nd St. – Website
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Disclosure: I was invited to a complimentary media tasting for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.