East meets west

Adored Asian-fusion restaurant ditches Aspen for new downtown Austin digs

Asian-fusion restaurant ditches Aspen for new downtown Austin digs

Tanuki cashew noodles Austin
Tanuki's dishes combine Asian and Southern American flavors. Photo by Craig Turpin

As Colorado fills up with Austin-born concepts like Lustre Pearl and Uchi in Denver and Clark’s Oyster Bar in Aspen, one Centennial State restaurant is returning the favor. Popular Asian fusion eatery House of the Rising Tanuki-san has decamped to the Capital City to open in the former home of sports bar Basecamp at 120 W. Fifth St. on November 6.

According to a release, the concept originally began in early 2018 as a take-out pop-up restaurant run out the kitchen of Aspen’s popular Bootsy Bellows nightclub. After a successful initial run, the eatery expanded with seating inside the club and a separate to-go window in the alley, soon becoming one of the town’s most talked-about new restaurants.

But Austin’s dynamic food scene drew owners Jonathan Leichliter, Kirra Sherman, and Adam Norwig to warmer climes and they began looking to move the operation to Texas. When the Basecamp space closed in late October, the team quickly transformed it into Tanuki.

The location change, however, didn’t change the restaurant’s offerings. Named after a shapeshifting animal from Japanese folklore, the restaurant draws inspiration from a wide variety of cuisines, melding classic pan-Asian dishes with Southern American flavors.

The Lost in Translation Chinese Chicken and Waffles, for instance, tops a sweet potato-scallion bubble waffle with crispy fried chicken thighs, then drizzles it in Bourbon maple syrup and yuzu-roasted tomato hot sauce. No Money No Honey Shrimp and Grits combines with andouille sausage, bok choy, peppers, and onions in a creamy tamarind and coconut curry.

Tanuki is also renowned for its vegetables dishes like charred asparagus with marinated egg and Japanese spice blend togarashi; Texas okra with lime, chile, and bonito flakes; and shishito peppers with nitsume sauce and Sapporo beer mustard.

Once in full swing, the restaurant will be open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, with takeout available during all services. Tanuki will also have a weekday happy hour with deals on beer, wine, sake, and Asian-inflected cocktails.

But for an even better bargain, locals are invited to try out the new eatery during the first two weeks of business when it will be offering 50 percent off everything on the menu. Although brand new to the city, it seems the owners have already acclimated to proper Austin hospitality.