ATXReview

photo credit: Roger Ho

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image
8.8

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

JapaneseBBQ

East Austin

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsDate NightFirst/Early in the Game DatesImpressing Out of TownersOutdoor/Patio SituationSmall PlatesUnique Dining Experience

Included In

Unexpected crossovers can be a lot of fun. They’re how we ended up with things like Viet-Cajun crawfish, bulgogi tacos, and birria ramen. Sometimes, they’re just a short-lived fad (looking at you, cronuts), but other times they end up changing the entire landscape of food entirely. From the people behind Ramen Tatsu-Ya and DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya in East Austin is a Japanese izakaya with a Central Texas barbecue twist. And they’re doing it in an entirely unique way that we think might just make it a crossover that’s here to stay.

The dining area is dimly-lit, with taxidermy deer heads hanging up between dusty sake bottles and Conway Twitty album covers. It feels a bit surreal—like an old Texas hunting lodge that picked up its decor from a kitschy vintage store in Tokyo. The speakers are pumping out old Wu Tang tracks—a fun background audio to the loud “irasshaimasu” welcome you’ll hear shouted out from all the staff as you enter the room—and there’s a lively energy coming from the exposed kitchen at one end of the room. You could just as easily bring a date here for a fun and lively dinner, or a group of friends to take down more of the menu. 

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image

photo credit: Roger Ho

Some of the food leans more into classic izakaya territory, with small bites like takowasa and chilled chawanmushi, but it’s where they start to incorporate some distinct Texas flavors that things get fun. The takoyaki—pretty much a staple in most izakayas—gets dressed in chili cheese here, and the jellyfish salad takes on a little menudo twist. Dishes like the guaca-poke probably don’t need much explanation, but it doesn’t make that first bite of tuna dipped in wasabi-spiced guacamole any less delicious. It feels natural, like it’s been a thing all along. 

But the meat of it all is, well, the meat of it all. This is a former Texas smokehouse, and they use that to their advantage. The bento boxes here are kind of a DIY handroll situation made for the whole table—with meats ranging from sesame-pecan brisket, to smoked unagi. Unless you spent your formative years being raised in a Texas-Japanese smokehouse, this is probably pretty far from what you’re used to seeing when you think about a little boxed meal.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

If you’re pretty well-acquainted with sake, you’ll probably find a few names you recognize—though we’re fairly certain you’ve never seen their signature Tatsu-Ya x Daimon bottle outside of the restaurant. Ask your server if you’re not sure where to start, then prepare to choose from about a dozen different unique sake cups of varying shapes and sizes. The Japanese whiskey list is one of the biggest in town, and the cocktails are mostly Japanese-inspired tiki drinks, with things like a matcha painkiller, or the Puff Puff Pass—a rum and barley shochu punchbowl for two. And if your friend Dylan won’t shut up about wanting a sake bomb, you can get one of those too—but it’ll run you $100, and they’ll pour one for the whole restaurant.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya is a product of both Japan and Texas, and as a result it’s a dining experience that couldn’t really exist outside of Austin. There are a few other spots in town that are blending Japanese and Texas flavors—like Otoko, Loro, and Lucky Robot—but each is doing it with its own twist. And the izakaya-meets-barbecue twist at Kemuri is one that we’ll readily get behind.

Food Rundown

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Chawanmushi

If you’ve tried chawanmushi before, you can expect a fairly classic flavor profile here, but with the addition of smoked trout roe and some charred veggies, giving it a bit of a smoky twist. And if you haven’t, you can expect a chilled, almost creamy egg custard that’s every bit as refreshing as it is savory. Toppings rotate a bit—ours came topped with some excellent, almost sweet blue crab—but we’d order this even if it came topped with jelly beans.
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Hot Pocketz

Unlike the previous dish, this is one where no level of familiarity with a Hot Pocket will prepare you for exactly what you’ll be trying. The shape’s roughly the same as everyone’s favorite volcano-in-a-shell late night snack, but the inside is stuffed with brisket and smoked gouda, and the wrapper is made out of tofu. It’s one of their most popular dishes, and rightfully so.
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Hotate Skewer

All of the skewers are grilled over binchotan charcoal which in this case is great for bringing out some subtle flavors and sweetness, without adding any smoky flavor. It’s served over a pickled corn puree of sorts that balances out some of that sweetness really nicely. It’s a pricey skewer—skip it if you’re not a big seafood eater—but a few bites go a long way.
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Chicken In The Nest

This is one of our favorite skewers. Basically an oblong chicken meatball dipped into a cured egg with soy sauce, it’s a savory rush to the head. Definitely grab a few of these, because you’re not going to want to share.
Kemuri Tatsu-Ya image

photo credit: Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Bento Box

For about $10 you can turn any of the smoked meats on the menu into a bento box. It’s one of the single best uses we’ve found for $10 in a while (other than the time we queued up 10 back-to-back listens of Don’t Stop Believin’ on a jukebox). It arrives as a stack of wooden boxes that makes the whole course feel like opening presents—inside, you’ll find things like pickles, rice, serrano miso barbecue sauce, and nori, all as a setup for some DIY smoked meat hand rolls. It’s the ultimate in Japanese Texas fusion, and one of our favorite things on the menu.

Included In

FOOD RUNDOWN

Suggested Reading

DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya image
8.4

DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya

DipDipDip Tatsu-Ya is an upscale hot pot restaurant on Burnet from the Ramen Tatsu-ya team.

Tiki Tatsu-Ya image
8.1

Tiki Tatsu-Ya is a tiki bar and restaurant in South Austin from the Ramen Tatsu-Ya team.

Ramen Tatsu-Ya East Austin image
8.0

Ramen Tatsu-Ya on the East Side is one of the best spots to grab a bowl of ramen after a night out.

Infatuation Logo

Cities

2024 © The Infatuation Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The views and opinions expressed on The Infatuation’s site and other platforms are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of (or endorsement by) JPMorgan Chase. The Infatuation and its affiliates assume no responsibility or liability for the content of this site, or any errors or omissions. The Information contained in this site is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness or timeliness.

FIND PLACES ON OUR APP

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store