Chronicle's food critic Brandon Watson credited newcomer Kemuri Tatsu-ya with breaking the mold and creating a genuine sense of place in Austin. The Holly restaurant opened its doors in January under co-owners and executive chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto, the team behind Austin’s cult-favorite Ramen Tatsu-ya.
Kemuri’s mash-up of Japanese traditions and Lone Star culture is an overriding theme that successful reverberates in the food, drinks, and atmosphere. There are exemplary dishes that fall under what he deemed as "stoner gastronomy,” like:
[...] the "Hot Pocketz" ($5), abura-age stuffed with brisket and Gouda and fused with a griddled wrap of sharp cheddar. Guaca-poke ($15) drafts tuna, pickled jalapeño, red onion, daikon sprouts, and wasabi into a mix that effortlessly melds both of its namesakes. The chili cheese takoyaki ($9), with a richly spiced chili, does a good job of approximating Frito pie, although I couldn't help but wonder if a cornmeal base instead of the traditional hakurikiko flour would have brought out the octopus' sweetness.
But the menu’s more basic dishes, such as dank tofu and edamame, yield unanticipated joy. He also called special attention to the offering of delicacies rated on a scale of funkiness, directing cautious diners to try the crispy ray fin, while pointing out the marinated octopus served with fresh wasabi, monkfish liver, and fermented soybeans to the more intrepid.
Beverage director Michael Phillips (formerly of Midnight Cowboy) is commended for his original use of Japanese ingredients in classic cocktails without falling into gimmicky traps. The sake-heavy bar program includes beers, spirits, and wine.
By establishing a clear identity of its own, Kemuri not only sets itself apart from the spattering of other new homologous restaurants, but it helps redefine Austin's own character. (It was just named as one of GQ’s best new restaurants of the country.)
Meanwhile, Matthew Odam of the Statesman made a trip west to Pizzeria Sorellina. That’s where he discovered Apis' Taylor Hall and Adam Brick are steadfast in their dedication to sourcing fresh ingredients and quality with this new casual venture. The family-friendly pizzeria debuted earlier this year as the little sibling to the upscale (and adjacent) Apis.
Sorellina serves several signature pizzas, with thoughtful flavor combinations that deliver depth and complexity. Maitake mushrooms and fermented and dried shiitake cream layer an earthy baseline on a pizza rich with wild boar ham and the perfumed texture of fried rosemary ($17). Another pie overflows with a harmonious onslaught of ingredients, from the licorice tingle of roasted fennel and zip of grilled green chilies to the sweetheart pop of honey and lemon and salty rumble of wild boar pancetta — all of it showered with bright herbs ($17).
Feeling adventurous? Choose from nearly 20 topping and create your own pizza. And don’t miss the salads, advised Odam. The critic pointed to the warm escarole “Caesar” and the coralline chicory and watermelon radish salad — the later which "had such vibrancy, you would have thought most of the ingredients had been plucked just minutes earlier from the restaurant’s garden."
Odam reminded readers that while Apis and Sorellina are not completely self-sustaining restaurants, both are fueled by a “fairly comprehensive supply chain.” This means honey from the property's apiary is incorporated into all drink and food menus, and the highly-praised salumi is made with wild boar from Hapgood Ranch in Clay County. This type of commitment to quality allows the menu to shine far beyond Spicewood’s city limits.
- Review: Kemuri Tatsu-ya [Chronicle]
- Review: Apis’ little sister, Pizzeria Sorellina, serves up big flavor [Statesman]