II have been a fan of installation art since my first visit to Marfa, Texas where I wandered the otherworld of Ilya Kabakov School n ° 6. The experience of entering in a work of art, to interact with a conjured world, was so magical that I have searched for similar experiences ever since. From Meow Wolf in Santa Fe to the tunnels connecting the Kinder Building to the rest of the Houston Museum of Art (not to mention the Rothko Chapel and Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern), I’ve been impressed (and sometimes panicked) by the immersive installations. . But when I went to Tiki Tatsu-Ya (Austin’s newest and most fabulous bar), I enjoyed not only a piece of art created by some of the city’s most innovative creatives, but a evening of fresh fish, ambient sounds, a light show, and my friend Emily sipping “Forbidden Grog” and “Strip and Go Naked” cocktails.
The brothers Tatsu and Shion Aikawa, owners of Ramen Tatsu-Ya (one of the Enjoy your meal‘s “Top 50 Best Restaurants”) and Kemuri, recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the world’s best restaurants on the 2021 Gold List, let’s say Tiki Tatsu-Ya was inspired by Los Angeles tiki bars. “Since opening our first ramen shop, our focus has always been to share the food, drinks and experiences that come from a place that is nostalgic or meaningful to our upbringing,” says Chef / Owner Tatsu. “Through our travels and tiki explorations, we discovered the rich Japanese roots of Hawaiian and tiki culture that grew out of centuries of immigration and we wanted to explore this further. We are grateful to everyone who was on the trip and look forward to welcoming guests from near and far to our version of tropical paradise.
Tiki Tatsu-Ya looks completely unassuming from the front. In fact, if you avoid the hordes lining up for Ramen Tatsu-Ya next door, you might think you’ve stumbled upon a dusty ’80s travel agency with windows covered with posters and even an advertisement for a page. “MySpace”. But once you step into the space once occupied by Backspace, the adventure (meticulously crafted by local craftsmen Blue Genie Art Industries and built by Satterfield Construction) begins.
Through wooden porthole doors, you enter a cave and admire a giant two-story rock fountain of the dragon Shisa. As you explore deeper, the rock faces are flanked by skulls, a shield wall, and nautical accents like fishing nets and floats. A cozy booth in front of the fountain places guests in the belly of an ancient merchant ship with portholes depicting scenes from the discovery of the island. At the end of the cave is the main bar, adorned with layers of eye-catching woodwork, personalized mugs, glasses, and a world-class rum selection.
Upstairs at the Nest Bar, the landscape transforms into a beach hut hideaway, where Shibori (Japanese-dyed fabrics), bamboo ceilings, and a large work of art honoring the journey of Japanese pearl divers (called “Ama”) stage. Lighting from Natalie George Productions, map projection and video design from Thrown Light, a soundtrack of ocean waves, thunderstorms and bird songs from Gl33k, and a gorgeous drink menu illustrated by Tony Canepa create a breathtaking spectacle.
Large format concoctions, which can accommodate from two to eight people, enhance the themes. There’s the Aku Aku fruit (which serves two), a mixed cocktail of pineapple, peach, lime, mint, and high-strength rum served in a pineapple; SOS – Stranded on Saturn (for three to four people), a blend of shochu, star fruit, passion fruit, miso-almond barley and falernum, served in an orb perched on a steaming garden landscape with the ability to upgrade with Kingston Negroni Titan shots; and the Skeleton Cruise (for four to six people), a combination of Japanese whiskey, rum, chartreuse, guava, lemon, pineapple and pomegranate, served in a skull-dazzled vessel. When certain cocktails are ordered, light shows and sounds are set off, eliciting cheers from customers (including me and Emily).
River Oaks District
At the heart of Tiki Tatsu-Ya’s food and drink program is a menu of timeless shareable bites that capture the story of the tiki heyday. We loved Spam on the Half Shell with homemade spam, mango, shio koji, dandelion and hibiscus furikake. The Crab Lagoon (a game of crab rangoons) is made from blue crab and served in its own ceramic crab tray.
We tasted the raw section O-Sakana, including the Maguro Poke, with tuna, cucumber, Kahuku Limu seaweed, crunchy taro and roasted kukui nuts, and Lomi Lomi Tataki, with salmon, kosho with tomato, shiso pesto, sea beans and macadamia nuts. oil. A buttery mochi dessert, with pineapple jam, coconut cream, matcha and macadamia nuts, was the perfect finish.
It seemed almost impossible to get out of the bar and end up on South Lamar Boulevard in Austin, Texas, without suitcases.