When Cultures Collide
Words By Ben Haguewood Photos By Ashley Haguewood
Like East Austin, familiar and pioneering preparations mingle to create new sensations for the city’s most adventurous diners.
Think of Kemuri Tatsuya as a biography in restaurant form, a reflection of co-owners’ Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya ‘Tako’ Matsumoto’s lives up until now, a story as much as a restaurant concept. In this case, it means being authentically Japanese and authentically Texan, which is not a stretch for chefs who were born and raised in Japan for the better part of their first ten years and then transplanted to Texas.
“Growing up,” says Tatsu, “if we went to a backyard barbecue, my mom would just throw on a whole fish, like a mackerel instead of ribs or beef.” At Kemuri Tatsuya, the charcoal smoke that fills the dining room is the favored treatment for the flavorful fish cuts like tuna collars, though the pair doesn’t have anything against brisket or ribs, which they came to love growing up and amply incorporate into their playful menu.
Like a traditional izakaya, or Japanese pub, the menu runs from small to large. A good way to start is with some salty, sharable bites like Tokyo street corn, their Japan inflected take on Mexican elote, smoked fish, or ribs with Japanese spice. Bigger bites include wooden kushiyaki or yakitori skewers of crisp beef tongue, pork belly, or chicharon cooked over a traditional Japanese coals. Each dish pairs well with a shot of sochu or sake to get the conversation and the beer flowing as one anticipates the next round of plates.
Kemuri Tatsuya is not a place to drop in for a quick bite. That’s not really the point of the izakaya; it’s a place to meet after work, relax, and just order until you’re full. If you’re feeling brave after a couple of pints, this is the only place in town you’ll find a menu of exotic and rare specialties like grilled ray fins and monk fish liver, rated for funkiness on a scale of Kenny G (not so much) to James Brown (You Nasty!). These bites are sure to keep the laughs and signature cocktails from the Tiki-inspired menu flowing. (The Puff Puff pass serves 2!)
The menu is rounded out by some comforting classics such as Texas Ramen, with smoky beef broth, and the sticky rice tamale, steamed in a corn husk with chorizo and shitake mushrooms, dishes that will leave diners feeling satisfied and full, whether you’re headed home, or out onto the streets of East Austin looking for the next new experience.
2713 E 2nd Street