Austin’s favorite noodle soup slingers Ramen Tatsu-ya is shaking things up with it’s third highly-anticipated restaurant in Austin. Kemuri Tatsu-ya, the Texas-influenced izakaya, debuts in Holly on Thursday, January 5. “This project is more about my influences,” co-owner Tatsu Aikawa explained: Japanese food with Texas tinges.
With Kemuri, Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto pay respect to the past. This includes keeping former tenant Live Oak Barbecue’s smoked-stained walls and the the cow diagram at the entrance. It also means that smoked meats do appear on the menu, though don’t call it a barbecue restaurant.
Barbecue has always been a favorite of Aikawa’s. “I love the history,” he explained, “and I feel really lucky to be in Texas and to have grown up in that culture.” He toyed with the idea of opening up a barbecue ramen restaurant out in Lockhart, where he frequently takes family and friends for smoked meat trips. But then the Live Oak space became available, and he decided to stick closer to home.
Kemuri is meant to become a destination for small plates, drinks, and “a really sociable environment,” Aikawa explained. “I wanted to give that vibe of a really cool hangout spot.”
The fun menu, full of illustrations, includes small bites (dubbed “munchies”), skewers, yakitori, kushiyaki, and rice. There are also those smoked meats, including brisket and fish such as mackerel and yellowtail collar, which is a Japanese staple.
Adventurous eaters should look to the chinmi menu, full of out-there dishes noted by its level of funkiness and corresponding iconic figures (the highest level is James Brown). Because it’s a Ramen Tatsu-ya production, the noodle soup is on the menu, of course, though the selection is limited. Desserts will span classics with Japanese edges, like pecan pie with Japanese sugar.
As for drinks with Japanese touches, Kemuri broke out its secret weapon: former Midnight Cowboy general manager Michael Phillips. He’s focusing on sake and shochu, Texas beers with a Japanese shoutout (Orion), and cocktails. For the latter, there are DIY highballs, grapefruit sours, and communal drinks.
The space, designed with McCray & Co., is eclectic, full of Japanese and Texas paraphernalia scattered throughout the space and plastered on the walls, like pre-1920s signage, old photos and license plates, and a taxidermy jackalope.
Guests will bide their time in the outdoor waiting area with drinks served from the rickshaw bar. Inside, they’ll find booth and bar seating, and the outdoor space provides a little green oasis in Holly.
Aikawa wants Kemuri to join the Texas’ food legacy, with his touch. “I am Japanese, and I am in love with showing people different cultural sides of Japanese cuisine,” such as Ramen Tatsu-ya’s pop-up dinners in 2015. “There was a story to be told, dishes to be had, and I think this is a great opportunity to mix it up.”
He further explained: “I am not trying to make a big deal out of mashing two ideas, this is just me,” which means proper smoked meats and izakaya.
Kemuri is still hiring for staffers, including meat cutters and yakitori cooks. Once it opens, its hours are from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday and Sunday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. There are two locations of Ramen Tatsu-ya in Austin: Research Boulevard and South Lamar, and then Houston is getting its very own sometime this year.