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