For the overwhelming majority of my 25 years, I’ve equated Ramen noodles with what most of you would equate Ramen noodles with – the affordable and convenient pre-packaged cup noodles that serve as staple items in virtually every college student’s pantry. However, I was recently introduced to a traditional Japanese Ramen eatery here in Austin and I’m never going back to those economy-sized packages of MSG and beef/chicken/shrimp flavored powder.
Ramen Tatsu-Ya has only been open a little over three months and has certainly lived up to its cult-following calibur hype. Currently, the restaurant is only open five days a week during dinner hours and there’s usually a line of eager patrons patiently waiting out the door. Though this line may look intimidating, I’d advise against giving up and trying again later because the line actually moves reasonably fast. Once you finally reach that sacred cash register at the front counter, it’s pretty smooth sailing from there.
Your food comes out hot and fast and though the waitstaff is busy, they’re also friendly and super attentive. The food is also a force to be reckoned with – the traditional Tonkotsu broth is a hearty, creamy, buttery combination of meaty flavor – up to 60 hours of preparation go into creating the broth alone. In fact, ramen virgins are encouraged to take a few minutes to savor the broth before trying the noodles and other accouterments.
Ramen Tatsu-Ya also features a slew of extra toppings you can add to your dish – spices, extra noodles, you name it – it’s like a Pinkberry, but hotter and much saltier. I consider these satisfying ramen dishes as a nice alternative to Vietnamese pho which is usually my cold weather, Asian comfort food go-to. This place is purely traditional Japanese – they don’t even carry forks because ramen is meant to be enjoyed with chopsticks. If soup and noodles aren’t your thing; I feel sorry for you – but fortunately, this place offers other options that look quite admirable – their edamame (both spicy and regular) is some of the best I’ve had. Their sliders and curry bowls have also received rave reviews. Their cold house sake and mochi ice also add a nice refreshing kick to mitigate the savoriness of the meal.
If you’re in Austin at all during the cold weather months, I would stop and visit this charming little place. Your belly will thank you profusely.