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Statesman Critic Praises Kemuri for Inventive Japanese-Austin Fusion

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Vigilante’s menu risks don’t pay off for Chronicle

Kemuri’s skewers
Kemuri’s skewers
Kemuri/Facebook

Matthew Odam at the Statesman discovers that Kemuri Tatsu-ya does more than just harmoniously mash up Texas and Japan, it also fuses Austin's best features. Co-owners and executive chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto, the team behind Austin’s famed noodle soup shops Ramen Tatsu-ya, opened Kemuri earlier this year. The new hot spot is part Texas-influenced izakaya, part-traditional Japanese pub. The fusion of Japanese traditions and Lone Star culture reverberates in both the food and drink menus and the atmosphere.

Highlights from the expansive menu for the critic included the chili-cheese takoyaki (Frito pie with octopus fritters); chewy chicken heart and succulent thigh skewers; chinmi (monkfish liver with ponzu, salted cod roe), roasted banana pudding with miso caramel and a brown sugar crumble, and more.

As for the brisket, Odam reported it's "on par with those places not named Franklin or La Barbecue," adding:

Yes, [Kemuri] put[s] brisket in their two ramens, but they didn’t just take an existing ramen broth and throw brisket into it (brisket pizza and brisket fried rice, I am looking at you). They built it from the bottom up, with beef as the bedrock component.

The critic concluded by praising the two talents behind Kemuri for doing more than fusing two cultures. They have also created a synthesis of Austin's "creative cooking, culture, community, music, irreverence, exploration and a funky good time."

While Chronicle food critic Brandon Watson didn’t send a bat call for help at the otherwise thrilling Vigilante, he did find the food off its game. The board gaming restaurant and bar in Crestview is a boon for gamers with more than 150 games, private dining rooms hidden behind bookcase doors, and more.

While pure love of games were evident, Watson states, “I wish the food followed suit.” He went on to identify several menu misfires, like the elote taquitos:

There are plenty of fun ideas on the menu that don't quite translate. Take the elote taquitos ($7), served with a chipotle aïoli that is supposed to mimic the mayo and chile powder of the inspiration dish. But the dish doesn't really work without the brightness of lime.

Then there was the samosa croquettes, which fell apart and were difficult to dip; caprese salad roll with vinegar reduction issues; and disappointing pho slider.

What Vigilante lacks in food satisfaction, though, it makes up in experience — in spades. Watson confessed that he "would have still recommended Vigilante if they were serving Sysco tater tots." But how nice if the food did in fact match the experience? The critic is hopeful that will in time and offered a few suggestions including a less complicated menu, a tighter rein on technique, and more salt and spice.

Meanwhile, Southern Living added fuel to the best barbecue debate with its list of the top ten barbecue restaurants in the South. Notably not written by the publication’s barbecue editor Robert Moss, Salt Lick seemed to rank higher than Franklin Barbecue. The former secured the #6 position, with the latter at #8.

THE BLOGS — Austinot paid homage Austin’s original circus-themed bar Carousel Lounge.

Vigilante

7010 Easy Wind Drive, Austin, Texas 78752 Visit Website

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

2713 East 2nd Street, , TX 78702 (512) 803-2224 Visit Website

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