Eater’s roving restaurant critic Bill Addison released his anticipated 2017 edition of the best new restaurants found across America after months of traveling, and Austin’s Kemuri Tatsu-ya landed on the list. The Texas Japanese izakaya opened in January from chef/owners Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto, the men behind Austin’s best noodle soup shops, Ramen Tatsu-ya.
While Addison was initially wary of the "gimmick" of Texas-Japanese mash-ups, Kemuri won him over, especially with the chili cheese takoyaki:
The octopus fritters brought ideal crunch against the molten cheese and beefy chili. Smoked jalapeno zapped every other bite. It was Frito Pie from another dimension.
He went on:
[Aikawa and Matsumoto] expound on their two local Ramen Tatsu-Ya shops to bridge two wholly different cultures, and the result is winning tension of opposites: a room of smoke-stained walls lined with old Japanese maps and beer ads and beat-up Texas license plates; a menu that includes fish collar with yuzu salt, sticky rice tamales with beef tongue and chorizo, and roasted banana pudding with miso caramel.
Addison told Eater Austin that the restaurant ended up being “the biggest surprise of my research year.” He continued:
Not that I didn’t expect Aikawa and Katsumoto to pull off food that’s rewarding for the Austin community. But their combination of Japanese and Texan flavors tastes like some acceleration of mingled cultures. I went back the day after my first meal just to confirm to myself, ‘Is this place really as incredibly enjoyable as I thought it was?’ Then I gorged on takoyaki and beef tongue tamale and brisket ramen again and knew the answer was yes.
The other 11 restaurants on the list include Houston’s Xochi, Seattle's JuneBaby (which he called the country's "next great Southern restaurant" found in the Pacific Northwest in a separate review), Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans, and others.
Addison will expound on how he fashioned the list and restaurants that were left off in his next newsletter. Elsewhere, Franklin Barbecue reps Austin in his National 38 list of the absolute best restaurants that define the country