At long last, Austin is finally home to a ramen shop. A real, authentic, studied ramen shop by the name of Ramen Tatsu-ya.
Co-owners and chefs Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya "Tako" Matsumoto are longtime friends who came together after amassing individual experience over the course of 10 years. Tatsu worked at the two-Michelin star restaurant Urasawa in Los Angeles, while Tako most recently held a position at 2nd Bar + Kitchen.
“I was craving good ramen after having lived in Japan and L.A. I wanted to provide that same quality and authenticity in the city I call home,” Tatsu said in an official press release. “We want to educate people on what ramen truly is. It’s the soul food of Japan. The process of broth-making can take an extremely long time in order to draw out the flavors from each ingredient.”
So what's required to make a downright, good-ass bowl of ramen? We asked Tatsu: "Balance," he told us. "But everyone has preference on tastes of ramen. It could be noodles, broth or topping. Different regions have different proper styles. It's hard to call one style 'proper style.' But ultimately, balance and soul!"
The north Austin shop seats 38 people in a communal style within a black, white and red themed space designed by local firm McCray & Co, which is also responsible for Lenoir's extraordinary French-country interior.
"We are a counter service restaurant," explains Tatsu. "The vibe is a friendly, casual atmosphere with traditional elements. Austin meets Japan is the best that I can describe it."
The menu ranges from small plates and five types of ramen to a yakisoba dog (pan fried noodles on a hotdog bun with red pickled ginger mustard and mayo) and munchie katsu slider (breaded, deep fried burger on a Hawaiian roll with katsu sauce).
The buzz Ramen Tatsu-ya generated upon its Saturday night opening proves that there's long since been a market for traditional, laid-back Japanese cuisine. For the first week, the restaurant could stay open only as long as it had enough food to prepare, which went quickly down the hatch of the ravenous crowd.
No reservations are accepted, so get there early, belly up next to a stranger and slurp away.