Over the past year or two, I have embarked on a ramen exploration across Houston as well as on my visits to other cities. Ramen has exploded onto the Houston food scene, but before these noodle joints became popular in Houston, I heard rumblings about a spot in Austin called Ramen Tatsu-Ya. My cousins raved about their experience here, saying that it was completely worth the nearly 2-hour wait to get a table.
Now, to be clear, I am typically not a follower of trends. I love to read up on new happenings in the local restaurant and food scenes, but I am never the first to jump on a brand new trend or restaurant that opens its doors. I prefer to wait for the hype to die down, especially in a city where restaurants come and go very quickly.
So about 1 year ago, I found myself in Austin for a work conference and had the chance to stop into Ramen Tatsu-Ya for a late dinner. This was one of my very first experiences with Ramen that didn’t come from a plastic package that my mom made for me, so I was blown away!
So fast-forward one year to last month when I visited the restaurant for a second time… but now, with a much broader and extensive understanding of Ramen. The menu at Ramen Tatsu-Ya is pretty straightforward–small bites, Ramen and a few rice bowls. So I decided to jazz up my dinner with an order of Hush Piggies alongside my tonkotsu original, to which I added menma (bamboo shoots) and a spicy bomb on the side.
The Hush Piggies were pretty much what you’d expect them to be… pork hush puppies, and they were topped with pickled ginger, bonita flakes and a light soy sauce-based sauce of some kind. The rilletes themselves were not very impressive as they were lacking in flavor and were a bit dry. But the heavy helping of toppings added some fun flavors that I did enjoy. You can’t go wrong with pickled ginger atop anything. Overall, so-so.. I don’t think I’d order them again.
My soup came out pretty quickly after my Hush Piggies, so I set those aside and skipped right to my tonkotsu. The spicy bomb was the right amount of spice I like, so I added a nice helping of it to my bowl and dove in! So it’s interesting when evaluating Ramen.. because there’s only a few variables that determine how good or bad the soup is. To me, the broth should be flavorful, the noodles tender but not too mushy and overcooked, and the meat (I generally go with pork, so in this case, pork chasu) moist and seasoned well. Man, it pains me to say “moist”, but that’s the only way I can describe a spectacular chasu.
My tonkotsu broth was not very savory, so the spicy bomb added a lot of the flavor to the soup. The menma, kikurage and egg were delicious, but that’s pretty standard at any shop. The chasu was flavorful, but not the melt-in-your-mouth kind that I go gaga over. All in all, pretty mediocre and not worth the hype in my opinion. I’ve heard mixed reviews of their new Houston location, but I’d be open to testing it out once the local buzz dies down, of course!