Cul­tural ex­change: Ex­cel­lent Ke­muri Tatsu-Ya mashes up Texas and Ja­pan

Austin American-Statesman - - FOOD & DRINK - By Matthew Odam modam@states­man.com

Think about the idea of “fu­sion cui­sine.” What comes to mind? Spicy chicken pizza from Wolf­gang Puck? Maybe wasabi mashed pota­toes or, that re­cent abom­i­na­tion, sushi bur­ri­tos?

Of course, those are the easy tar­gets. There’s noth­ing in­her­ently wrong or hack­neyed about meld­ing cuisines — with­out the con­cept we wouldn’t have the Viet­namese banh mi; tam ka shrimp and grits from the late Kin & Com­fort; or a tran­scen­dent French-Ja­panese dish like foie gras ni­giri.

Pulling off such fu­sion re­quires the kind of thoughtfulness you don’t of­ten find in Franken­foods like naan tacos or dough­nut ham­burg­ers. If you want suc­cess, you need in­ten­tion, a point of view and a grounded place from which to start.

The Tokyo-born and Austin-raised Tatsu Aikawa and na­tive Aus­ti­nite and first gen­er­a­tion Ja­panese-Amer­i­can Takuya “Tako” Mat­sumoto ig­nited the lo­cal ra­men craze when they opened their first Ra­men Tatsu-Ya in 2012. With their lat­est res­tau­rant, Ke­muri Tatsu-Ya, they pull from their two cul­tural and culi­nary back­grounds for a tran­scen­dent mash-up, an izakaya smoke­house that blurs the lines be­tween Ja­pan and Texas.

Walk into the vi­brant din­ing room de­signed by lo­cals McCray & Co. (Lenoir, Ra­men Tatsu-Ya) and the shouted greet­ing of “Irasshaimase” lingers in the air as you make eyes with the first piece of taxi­dermy. It’s hard to tell where the vin­tage Lone Star signs and as­sorted Tex­ana end and Ja­panese art and ar­ti­facts like old beer ad­ver­tise­ments be­gin. Black-and­white samu­rai movies are pro­jected on a wall vis­i­ble from the co­pi­ous out­door cli­mate-con­trolled seat­ing area dec­o­rated with red lights and more an­i­mal horns, as

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