Located in a nondescript strip mall just off 183 that caters towards Asian-American clientele is the catalyst of Austin’s ramen scene. Ramen Tatsu-Ya is a place of contradictions. The location is a bit shabby and away from the “cool” areas of Austin but inside is busy and bustling with people from all walks of life. The decor is both traditional as well as modern and hip. The menu is simple but the few dishes on it are complicated and constructed with artistic details. Even their slogan “Japanese Soul Food” speaks to the kind of Venn Diagram happening inside.
Austin has fallen in love with ramen mostly because of Chef Tatsu Aikawa and Chef Takuya Matsumoto who opened Ramen Tatsu-Ya last September. In typical Austin fashion, lines started forming out the door and down the sidewalk. I have had to talk several people into enduring the line because the food at the end of the wait is so worth it.
Each time I have visited I have ordered the Tonkotsu Original. It features a creamy broth made from pork bones that they claim is simmered for 60 hours. I can believe it. This broth is more than just a carrier for the other ingredients, it imparts so much flavor on it its own. Arranged in the bowl of broth is a aji-tama (a soft-boiled egg that has been marinated in Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s own soy sauce), ki-kurage (wood-ear mushrooms that add an earthiness flavor), scallions, and a healthy slice of pork belly. And of course the fresh, soft ramen noodles.
Because each ingredient is so flavorful I suggest trying each part separately. Then start combining them, making each bite slightly different. You can do this by choosing by hand or if your chopsticks skills aren’t up to par (no forks allowed!), just leaving it to random chance and eating the combination that’s easiest to grab.
I also order the additional garlic. This $0.50 addition means the waiter brings you a wooden box with 8-12 large garlic cloves already peeled and a garlic press. As a garlic addict this is a trend I hope other restaurants will copy.
I also have tried the Gyoza Potstickers, pork dumplings that are pan seared. They can best be described as okay. Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t order them. They really are just a carrier for the small bowl of house-made soy vinegar sauce which dances on your tongue with each bite.
It’s fantastic having such a great restaurant away from the hustle and bustle of downtown and will hopefully inspire other restaurateurs to do the same. It’s location also makes it a great dinner spot before going to Cap City Comedy Club.
As Austin gains more and more noodle shops Ramen Tatsu-Ya stands above them all as the golden crown in the ramen revolution.