Tatsu-ya Ramen has taken Austin by storm. Rumor has it the owners will soon launch a second location in Houston. Here’s a few impressions from a recent visit to the Austin ramen hot spot.
By Katie Walsh
Early on a Saturday night, the line at Tatsu-ya is manageable. We seem to arrive at just the right time; by the time my friends and I take our first slurp of cream-colored pork bone tonkotsu, the line is very long and the crowd is getting loud and rowdy.
Tatsu-ya was the first of the ramen tsunami to hit Austin back in September, and it made quite a splash, drawing steady lines ever since and scoring a 2012 Eater Austin “So Hot Right Now” award.
Many have raved about their tonkotsu, the main menu item; ramen with a rich, milky colored broth that they reduce for anywhere from 12 to 60 hours. The tonkotsu comes three ways, so we ordered it three ways (they also serve a veggie ramen, but only on Sundays).
The Number 1 Original ($8.50, pictured above) is the straight-up classic tonkotsu. It comes with a slice of chashu pork belly, naruto maki fish cake, curls of woodear mushroom and fresh scallions.
Oh, and a super silky ajitama soft-boiled egg, which is soaked in a seasoned soy sauce marinade until the white deepens in color, and then sliced in half to reveal an almost jam-like, sultry golden yolk.
My friend ordered hers with the Corn on the Bomb ($1), one of many flavor “bombs” you can mix into your broth. An indulgent ball of sweet butter and fresh corn kernels, we stirred small bits into spoonfuls of soup for sinfully creamy bites. The broth is deeply rich on its own, so a little of this bomb goes a long way.
I went for the Number 2 Sho-yu ($8.75), made with a special house-made soy sauce, bamboo shoots, peppercorn, and roasted nori seaweed. I added a topping of roasted Brussels sprouts and a homemade chile garlic Spicy Bomb, both of which I strongly recommend.
Our dining companion chose the Number 3 Mi-So-Hot/Mi-So-Not, ($9 for not, $10 for hot), which has miso mixed into the broth and is served with ground pork, cabbage and bean sprouts. While the first two are pretty similar, this one really has a unique flavor; earthy and malty from the miso and heartier on the pork flavor.
Tatsu-ya also serves a dipping ramen with lime called Tsukemen, citrus-shichimi-jalapeño edamame, mochi ice and other little bites. But looking around the place, jam-packed and bumpin’, almost everyone is twirling noodles and slurping that pearly broth—the tonkotsu is clearly the star.
Don’t bother trying to skip the lines by getting your ramen to go. The restaurant is known for firm, al dente noodles and the owners discourage to-go boxes and flatly refuse take-out orders–they want to insure you eat your noodles fresh and not soggy.
Come hungry. Get comfy.