Fed Man 55: Komé (22)
Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
No. 22: Komé
4917 Airport Blvd. 512-712-5700, www.kome-austin.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner Monday-Friday. Noon to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5:30 to 10 p.m. for dinner Saturday-Sunday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 11.09.12
With a blue bandanna tied around her head, Kayo Asazu took a break outside the Sushi-A-Go-Go trailer on Barton Springs road in the summer of 2011 to talk about home cooking. More specifically, the home cooking she wanted to bring to Komé, the restaurant she and her husband, Také, were opening on Airport Boulevard. The couple’s two trailers were doing well with rolls and cut fish, but she wanted to bring udon noodles and izakaya snacks and ramen soup to a market that was desperate for it, even if nobody knew it at the time. Any doubts? Look at the line out the door at the new North Austin shop called Ramen Tatsu-ya.
But just as they were among the early adopters of elevated trailer food, the Asazus became ramen trailblazers when Komé opened in October 2011, making an introduction with cloudy pork stock fortified with roasted pork and a soft-boiled egg and floating flourishes like sweet fish cakes and golden kernels of corn (tonkotsu ramen, $9). And they did it in the shell of an old Tejano nightclub, armored now in sawn wood and decorated in a tasteful but spare Japanese style inside, the dark-stained concrete floors and blond-wood sushi bar set in place by friends from Japan and the Asazus themselves between trailer shifts.
The trailers closed shortly after Komé opened, but some of the trailer dishes came along for the ride, like a vegetable roll with full-color crunch wrapped in soy paper the color of radioactive tights ($7) and the Texas Surf and Turf roll ($8) with thin grilled beef and fried shrimp fighting it out over candied jalapeño. The Superfly roll — with grilled eel and salmon skin ($7) — makes an elegant makimono lunch, a robust union of rice, briny fish flavors, cucumber crunch and sweet sauce. A good idea when it came in a paper boat, an even better notion on a sturdy wooden block.
On the fresh side of the waterline, Komé’s sashimi lunch is a compact showcase from the sushi bar, with elegantly composed cuts of tuna, salmon, mackerel, scallop and clam dressed with the snap of golden tobiko ($14.50 with rice, soup and tiny but intense Japanese pickles). Také Asazu’s credentials include Uchi and the late Yu Sushi downtown, and his kitchen produces cold and hot dishes with equal skill, like a fillet of mackerel bronzed like an oceanic idol, with its oily splendor captured best by the simple sear ($9). Komé’s tamago egg custard nigiri is the best I’ve had in Austin, firm and sweet, branded with the restaurant’s logo for show and for a fleeting kiss of caramelization.
For me, Komé went from charming Japanese kitchen to source of wonder with a dish I wouldn’t have eaten on a dare until now. It’s called tama himo, and it’s made from the willowy oviducts and yolk buds of unlaid chicken eggs — the harvesting of which I witnessed on assignment at HausBar Farms, a grim task transformed by the loving respect with which it was carried out. Také Asazu simmers his tama himo with kon nyaku root, dried chiles, ginger, garlic, sugar, mirin, sake and soy sauce. It’s a filling bowl something like a chicken stew, a dish from the couple’s childhoods in Japan, a memory interpreted for an Austin audience that seems ready to follow them anywhere.
(TOP: Sashimi lunch plate; Superfly sushi roll; the rough-sawn exterior wall. FIRST INSET: Tonkotsu ramen; shrimp and vegetable tempura. SECOND INSET: The Sushi-A-Go-Go trailer staked a claim in front of the former Tejano club on Airport Boulevard that would become Komé with specialties like the vegetable roll, left, and the Texas Surf and Turf. Both rolls made the move to Komé. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants