If you wait outside for a table at this East Austin favorite (and you probably will), one of the first things you’ll notice, beyond the crowds milling around the thoughtfully provided alfresco bar, is a giant black barrel pit saturating the air with that enchanting charred-wood aroma we Texans love so. Indeed, the smoke emanating from that belching behemoth permeates all aspects of this rustic Tex-Asian establishment, from the brown-leather booths and white cinder-block walls to the kabocha squash bathed in a sherry teriyaki sauce and a simple filet of mackerel served with a lemon wedge (on a butcher-paper-lined metal tray, naturally), beneath a mound of cilantro and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. If you find yourself wanting a break from that flavor profile, look to the sashimi, like a recent special featuring fat, pink slices of Ora King salmon topped with crispy garlic and fanned out on a ceramic plate with a pool of ginger-miso aioli. The flea-market-meets-honky-tonk vibe feels almost unbearably hip, you’ll fit right in sharing a Puff Puff Pass, a delightfully bug-eyed ceramic puffer fish equipped with two straws and full of sweet potato shochu and aged rum.
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Raw squid and smoked fish collar are just a couple of the dishes offered by the guys behind Ramen Tatsu-Ya.