Cold Weather Eats: Ramen Tatsu-ya

Between this winter’s blistering cold temperatures and gusty winds spreading cedar fever like the plague, I find myself with a constant craving for the warm healing properties found in a bowl of ramen. Thankfully, Austin has welcomed a plethora of new spots specializing in the Japanese dish over the last couple of years to help satisfy this need for noodles. The indisputable leader of the pack is North Austin’s Ramen Tatsu-ya, whose addictive ramen bowls have cultivated a local cult following and garnered the shop national acclaim from the likes of Food & Wine and Bon Appetite magazine, to name a few.

Ramen Tatsu-ya’s menu focuses on different renditions of the traditional pork broth based ramen bowls in addition to a chicken broth version offered during the newly added lunch time hour and a Sunday evening veggie ramen special. From the two and half day cooking process to a firm no take-out rule, the Ramen Tatsu-ya team is fanatical about the quality of their ramen beginning with the backbone of each dish, the broth. A far cry from the supermarket dried noodle package, Ramen Tatsu-ya spends hours upon hours slowly developing the ramen broth in order to draw out the nuances of every ingredient. This painstaking attention to detail pays off in spades by giving each bowl richness and depth.

In a failed attempt to somewhat keep those January resolutions, I choose to feed my craving by visiting Ramen Tatsu-ya during lunch to test out their chicken broth-based ramen instead of holding out for the creamy, rich pork version. Inspired by the traditional ramen style of Tokyo, Ramen     Tatsu-ya’s Ol’ Skool shoyu ramen features thinly sliced soy-braised pork belly, half of a soft boiled egg, nori strips, and marinated bamboo shoots.

Ol’ Skool Shoyu Ramen - $9.00

Ol’ Skool Shoyu Ramen – $9.00

As with all of their dishes, Ramen Tatsu-ya’s Ol’ Skool ramen is set apart by subtle complexities built from the well-developed flavors of each individual component in the dish.  From the slices of tender, fatty beef to the crispy, tangy pickled bamboo shoots, every element is delicious enough to stand on its own but also complimentary to the overall dish as well. Continue reading Cold Weather Eats: Ramen Tatsu-ya

Austin Restaurant Openings Forecast, Part II: Bold-Faced Names and Upscale Eats

As 2013 winds down and we look forward to 2014, it’s time once again for a round up of the latest and greatest new additions to the Austin dining scene as well as a few newcomers to look forward to in the coming months. Go ahead and scratch any future New Year’s resolutions to go on that diet because we’ve got a lot of eating to do…

Part I available here.

Get your chicken fried egg on at Odd Duck

Get your chicken fried egg on at Odd Duck

The Bold Faced Names
Odd Duck – Opened in South Austin December 2013
Almost three years to the date of beginning service at his much-lauded Barley Swine restaurant, Chef Bryce Gilmore has opened his second brick and mortar restaurant in South Austin. Inspired by the food truck that started it all, Odd Duck will feature a rotating menu of inventive comfort dishes created from strictly local, seasonal ingredients. Lower in price and bigger in size, Odd Duck should serve as the slightly more approachable brother to Barley Swine. The ah-mazing menu includes the return of such favorites as the Chicken Fried Chicken Egg pictured above (and described here). Odd Duck, located at 1201 South Lamar, is now serving dinner 7 nights a week.

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Noble Sandwich Co. – North Central in Early 2014
After announcing its expansion plans earlier this year, the hotly anticipated central location of Noble Sandwich Co. will open on 49th and Burnet in early 2014. Known for ridiculously good sandwiches crafted from fresh breads, house cured meats, and from-scratch spreads and vegetables, the second outpost will also feature beer, wine, charcuterie and more.

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Chavez – Opens Downtown in Winter 2014
Chef Shawn Cirkiel & co. (parkside/backspace/Olive & June) will be opening the southwestern inspired Chavez restaurant at the completely revamped Radisson Hotel in January 2014. Chavez’s future space, formerly home to TGIFriday’s, is currently being overhauled to reflect the Radisson’s new direction as well as to capitalize on the location’s exceptional views of Lady Bird Lake.

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Laundrette/Angry Bear – Opens South Austin Summer 2014
After Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki abruptly departed La Condesa and Sway Thai earlier this fall, the rumor mill was churning with buzz that the duo was cooking up something amazing for Austin. Since that time, it has been announced that the James Beard nominated chefs have teamed up with Fresa’s owners Margaret Vera and Tracy Overath to launch a pair of eateries off South Lamar in summer 2014. As detailed in an interview with Texas Monthly, plans include Laundrette, an upscale café and grocery, and Angry Bear, a Szechaun takeout spot.

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Wu Chow – Opens Downtown Late 2014
The team behind downtown favorite Swift’s Attic recently announced plans for a second concept to open in late 2014. The new restaurant, called Wu Chow, will serve ‘authentic, modern Chinese cuisine’ from its space located in the forthcoming IBC building near Republic Square Park. In developing the concept, Wu Chow GM and co-owner C.K. Chin drew inspiration from his own Chinese roots and plans to feature dishes that blend his traditional family recipes with the modern face of Chinese cuisine today. Mouthwatering already…

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Best of the Rest/Upscale Eats Continue reading Austin Restaurant Openings Forecast, Part II: Bold-Faced Names and Upscale Eats

Kenichi Austin

Recently, I joined a few fellow food writers for dinner and sake tasting hosted by Kenichi Austin. Considering my sake expertise is limited to perfectly balancing shots on chopsticks above beer, the evening offered the opportunity to expand my sake knowledge. And, truth be told, it had been a while since my last visit to the downtown sushi restaurant, and I was eager to see what the kitchen had in store.

Butterfish Sashimi w/pickled diakon & carrots over tomari gastrique

Butterfish Sashimi w/pickled diakon & carrots over tomari gastrique

The evening began in the bar with a tasting of Kamoizumi ‘Autumnal Elixir’ sake paired with pork belly asparagus kushiyaki and roasted shishito peppers. The night’s sake sipping began on a high note with the Autumnal Elixir, which proved to be my favorite of the evening. It was incredibly smooth with a nice balance of tartness and sweetness. Though I’ve been suffering from serious pork belly fatigue of late (I know, I know #firstworldproblems) I couldn’t help but enjoy Kenichi’s thinly sliced, lean strips. Salty and light, the kushiyaki dish played nicely next to the caramel notes in the sake.

Pork Belly Wrapped Asparagus

Pork Belly Wrapped Asparagus

We moved next to the sushi bar to taste three sashimi plates created by Chef Richard Lee. Continue reading Kenichi Austin

First Look: Daruma Ramen

That slurping you hear is the sound of pure happiness coming from the newly opened Daruma Ramen. After a soft launch last week, Daruma Ramen officially opened its doors on this past Tuesday. The latest project from the owners of popular Kome Sushi, Daruma Ramen joins Ramen Tatsuya and Michi Ramen as the latest restaurant celebrating the humble yet addictive Japanese noodle dish.

 

Shoyu Ramen - $9

Shoyu Ramen – $9

Though it might be the new kid on the block, Daruma’s bowls of ramen taste anything but amateur. The Shoyu Ramen, for example, features a chewy, tender noodles swimming in a dashi seafood stock and chicken broth topped with chicken and vegetables. The warm broth, brimming with subtle, comforting umami flavor, is hard to quit eating, despite long past entering a full on food coma. Continue reading First Look: Daruma Ramen

Komé Sushi

If there were a void in Austin’s dining scene, it would have to be the lack of high in quality, mid-range in price sushi restaurants. Though I would gladly spend the rest of my days devouring nigiri at Uchi or Uchiko, my bank account sadly begs to differ. While there are a handful of budget friendly places where one can appease a craving for a spicy tuna roll, there were, until recently, only one or two options where one could find high-quality sushi without a high-end price tag. Save for the highly recommended Musashino up north, I have often left mid-priced sushi restaurants in town with the sense the cost and quality didn’t equate. However, thanks to Airport Blvd.’s Komé Sushi, Austinites now have one more exception to this rule.

 

Komé Chazuke - $9

Komé Chazuke – $9

Before opening last year their Zen-like brick and mortar last year, husband and wife team Kayo and Také Asazu first built a loyal following with their Sushi-A-Go-Go trailer eateries. In developing the Komé menu, the Asazu’s looked beyond sushi to also incorporate well-loved Japanese-comfort foods such as selections of ‘Yaki’ or grilled skewers and ‘Agé’ or fried plates. Lunch offerings include bento boxes and noodle bowls, including a much-lauded trio of ramen dishes. Much like the sushi rolls, most dinner plates are perfect for sharing and priced under $10, allowing guests to sample several items off of both menus, such as on this particular visit. Continue reading Komé Sushi

First Look: East Side Kings at Hole in the Wall

With plans including a flagship restaurant and tasting room, 2013 promises to be the year Paul Qui conquers the Austin dining scene, a trend that actually started in the close of 2012. Qui & co. expanded their monarchy west with the December opening of their newest East Side King location. Bravely crossing the great 35 divide isn’t the only change the Kings made to their format; housed in the famed west campus bar Hole in the Wall, it also marks the trailer eatery’s first foray into a brick and mortar kitchen

As with its predecessors, this installment of East Side Kings features a unique menu boasting bold dishes inspired by Japanese street food, all for under $10. For this specific location, the menu features a combination of ESK favorites such as fried Brussels sprouts, beet home fries, and pork belly steamed buns along with a trio of ramen noodle dishes. Creative and chocked full of flavor, these ramen noodle dishes serve to put any past memory of Lipton Cup ‘o Noodles to rest. On a recent foray to the new locale, I devoured a bowl of squid ink ramen filled with crispy rings of squid, tender noodles, vegetables, herbs and tons of flavor. Adding an egg on top costs an extra dollar, which is a highly recommended decision as the creamy yolk made the ramen absolute perfection.

Squid Ink Ramen w/Egg - $8 ($9 w/egg)

Squid Ink Ramen w/Egg – $8 ($9 w/egg)

Continue reading First Look: East Side Kings at Hole in the Wall

First Look: Lucky Robot

Adam Weisberg, the man behind the healthy, budget-friendly Japanese chain Zen, is back with an innovative new restaurant called Lucky Robot,now open on South Congress. Inspired by the Japanese Harajuku culture, Lucky Robot features a bright neon décor and an elevated menu of Japanese street eats.  In addition to an expansive, revamped menu, the original concept features an iPad ordering system complete with nutritional information, detailed descriptions, and photos of each dish.

Green Machine Sashimi

Continue reading First Look: Lucky Robot

Tour de Thai: Thai Thani

After recently tapping into an unrealized infatuation with the flavors of Thailand beyond Pad Thai, I have initiated a quest to uncover Austin’s best Thai spots. This Tour de Thai comes at an ideal time since Austin’s dining scene has scene a surge of new Thai and other Asian-inspired spots popping up around town.

Today’s featured stop is Thai Thani.  Owned by a mother/daughter team, Thai Thani specializes in casual Thai street food dishes such as curries and stir-fries. Located in the parking lot of a stop ‘n go on Manor Road, the lone trailer would almost be easy to overlook if not for its bright yellow exterior and swarm of neighborhood regulars waiting for their orders.

Drunken Noodles w/Beef at Thai Thani – $6.95

My newfound taste for Thai was kickstarted by yellow curry, making my choice of entrée an easy one. The yellow curry was well balanced with just the right amount of heat and sweet. Continue reading Tour de Thai: Thai Thani