I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Komé

In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
Day 5: Komé
4917 Airport Blvd. 712-5700, www.kome-austin.com.
Hours (updated November 2012): 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 | 01.05.12
When I started this 50 Eggs series, I never thought that one of those dishes would change how I think about food. It’s called tama himo, a Japanese stew of unlaid chicken eggs, and it brings together four people who not only appreciate good food but respect where it comes from.
The story begins with Také and Kayo Asazu, the Japanese-born couple who started an Austin food trailer called Sushi-A-Go-Go in 2009. They added a second trailer, then began work on an Airport Boulevard sushi restaurant called Komé last year. Komé opened in October, and they closed the last sushi trailer in December to concentrate on Japanese home-cooking and sushi at Komé, which means “rice” in Japanese.
Looking for a local source of chickens and eggs, the Asazus turned to Dorsey Barger and Susan Hausmann, who run HausBar Farms in East Austin. Barger was the co-founder of East Side Cafe, a pioneer in the locavore movement. She sold her share of the restaurant in November.
Barger told me that during a tour of HausBar, Kayo Asazu was drawn to the harvest of unlaid eggs during the slaughtering process. The eggs were the foundation of a cherished childhood dish, and she commissioned HausBar to supply them for Komé, where Také Asazu makes the stew called tama himo.
About that dish. Unlaid eggs take many forms. They might have fully formed shells, ready to be laid that day. Or hard amber blooms about the size of a yolk, in rows like an organic assembly line on their way through the oviduct. Or they might be tiny yellowish seeds, like yolk buds on a stem. The dish also incorporates the willowy organs that cradle the eggs.
Whichever form those unlaid eggs take, you can be sure tama himo will be unlike most anything you’ve eaten before. Like menudo? Maybe, but a kinder and gentler form without the grassy funk. Texturally, it’s like a dish of hardened egg yolks and tender chicken thigh meat or knobbed wild mushrooms, with ridges to capture the married flavors of the dish. Asazu brings his tama himo together with jellied sections of kon nyaku root, dried red chile peppers, ginger, garlic, sugar, mirin, sake and soy sauce, simmered in a steel pot. There’s a lingering sweetness that borders on overkill, but the more familiar ginger, garlic and soy flavors will ease you past the almost alien forms of the budding eggs, tangled ovidcuts and tubes like undersea flowers.
Komé has a soft spot for eggs. They show up half-boiled in tonkotsu ramen, as egg custard in tamago sushi, in omelette form for tonpei-yaki. I’ll review Komé more fully in the weeks to come, but for a more rounded account of the restaurant now, read Matthew Odam’s review in the American-Statesman here.
For tama himo, HausBar’s supply of that crucial element will dictate how often Komé can offer the dish. When it’s available, it’ll be on the izakaya dinner menu for $8. Call ahead for availability, and brace yourself for eggs like you’ve never imagined.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
I Can Eat 50 Eggs index