When I attended St. Edward’s University, I went on a one-week trip to Japan to learn more about the Japanese culture, as part of a global business ethics and responsibilities course. The trip was amazing! Everything about the country blew me away, especially the food.
Luckily, we have our fair share of authentic and mouth-watering Japanese cuisine here in Austin. I’m sure you’ve heard of one of the restaurants I frequent: Ramen Tatsu-ya. But did you know the Tatsu-ya group has three other restaurants in Austin, with a fourth on the way?
The Tatsu-ya Story
Tatsu Aikawa had plenty of reasons to open his first eatery, but the main reason was simple. He wanted to eat ramen. Aikawa was raised in Austin and wanted to introduce locals to diverse types of Japanese food. He teamed up with Shion Aikawa, Takuya Matsumoto, and Chiai Matsumoto to turn this dream into reality.
The first restaurant was dedicated to serving authentic Japanese ramen and a few side dishes. As Aikawa told me, it was very “bootstrapped.” The team purchased recycled chairs and tables from a Red Lobster and fixed them up. When the restaurant opened in 2012, it was a hit. By the time I discovered it in 2013, lines would wrap around the side of the building as people waited in anticipation for a warm, delicious bowl of ramen.
Eventually, Ramen Tatsu-ya opened a second Austin location on South Lamar in 2015. But that wasn’t the end of the Tatsu-ya brand expansion. Instead of ramen, the founders added a Texas-style izakaya (what you could call a Japanese pub) called Kemuri Tatusu-ya, a patio bar and food truck called Domo Alley-Gato, and a new school shabu-shabu restaurant called DipDipDip Tatsu-ya. Each location “has its own soul,” which is evident the moment you walk up to it.
“Every day is a great moment,” Aikawa said about the time since he opened that first Ramen Tatsu-ya seven years ago. Getting to share Japanese food and do what he loves has been a wonderful experience for him.
Made From the Best Ingredients
While it’s easy to go on and on about the food at any of the Tatsu-ya restaurants, I feel it’s important to take a step back and look at the amazing team that serves and cooks the meals. Every time I go in, every employee is authentic and easy to talk to. As Aikawa told me, it’s easy for everyone’s passion to come through when they come together with a common goal.
A fun fact I learned during my chat with Aikawa is there are a lot of musicians on his staff. I’d say that definitely helps add to the “Austin vibes” that fill the restaurants.
How many of the Tatsu-ya restaurants have you visited already? Here’s what you can expect at each one.
1/ Ramen Tatsu-ya
Put down your instant ramen and grab your keys. If you’re looking to eat some delicious ramen, then you’ll want to head over to Ramen Tatsu-ya.
There are several different bowls of ramen you can try, but I highly recommend the Tonkotsu Sho-Yu. It consists of pork belly, bamboo, pepper, a marinated egg, seaweed, and scallions in a savory pork bone broth. You can add things like Brussels sprouts, garlic, or extra ajitama (marinated egg) into your bowl. Want it spicy? Then you’re going to want one of the bombs to drop into your broth.
There are some suggested rules when you eat your ramen. Make sure to sip your broth before digging into the noodles, and to slurp your noodles as loud and shamelessly as possible!
Ramen Tatsu-ya has three locations open in Austin (and one in Houston).
2/ Kemuri Tatsu-ya
Aikawa wanted to fuse a bit of old Tokyo with a Texas smokehouse. This idea brought us Kemuri Tatsu-ya, a Texas-style izakaya located in east Austin. Try out some munchies, smoked meats and fish, and delicious skewers–along with a full bar menu.
Want to try a twist on authentic Japanese ramen? Then you’ll want to take a look at the two Texas-themed options at Kemuri. The BBQ Tsukemen is a dipping ramen complete with brisket (and it’s as delicious as it sounds).
➡️ Keep reading: Gather at Kemuri Tatsu-ya in Austin for Japanese Small Plates
3/ Domo Alley-Gato
If you’re a curry lover, then check out this patio bar and food truck next door to Ramen Tatsu-ya’s east Austin location. Domo Alley-Gato specializes in Japanese curry and highball cocktails. It’s easy to grab your choice of a meat or vegan curry, and pair it with a specialized mixed drink.
Want to have the staff mix something different for you? Ask for a DIY Chu-Hi, where you get to pick your favorite tonic and spirit from the bar collection to create your perfect drink.
4/ DipDipDip Tatsu-ya
Aikawa and team have created a new school take on the shabu-shabu. Everyone starts with the Shabu Shabu Ozen, which has your choice of broth, rice, and two dips (citrus ponzu and sesame gomadare).
From there, you get to pick all the meats, vegetables, and other items you want to eat. You put the food item of choice into your broth for the recommended amount of cook time, and then dip it into one of the dips.
If you’re a little unsure of what to get from the menu, then don’t worry. There are recommended meals put together by the chefs. I suggest getting an extra dip called truffle sukiyaki. My mouth waters just remembering how everything tasted in it.
Be sure to make an online reservation before heading over. DipDipDip gets booked pretty quickly!
Coming Soon: Tiki Tatsu-ya
The latest Tatsu-ya concept is Tiki Tatsu-ya. Aikawa has learned a lot about the Tiki culture while preparing for the opening of this restaurant, and he’s excited to create an immersive environment.
Tiki Tatsu-ya will be located right next to the south Ramen Tatsu-ya location when it opens. An opening date has not been set yet.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What’s your favorite Tatsu-ya dish?