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Fukumoto: East Austin's Refined Izakaya

11.30.2015 by: Vanessa Miller
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Moving here from Japan 7 years ago, I was eager to try Austin’s new East 6th Street Japanese restaurant, Fukumoto. Walking in, it’s subtle, not flashy or stuffy in the slightest, yet still refined with very obvious and gorgeous Japanese aesthetic. I felt totally at ease, surrounded by glowing wood finishes and dimly lit stone walls. I knew that I was in for something special.

The interior is warm and earthy, hinting at a special meal ahead.

I’ve seen Fukumoto billed as an izakaya, but this feels much more refined than the Tokyo izakayas I’m used to.  Our waitress told us that Kazu Fukumoto is very concerned with making simple, real, Japanese food.  No avocado or cream cheese with your sushi, in other words. 

The menu is written mostly in Japanese, and includes an extensive sake menu. There's just enough classic appetizers to choose from, a sushi section that included interesting things like monkfish liver and green tea fed snapper, a few simple rolls, and then a larger yakitori section.  Yakitori literally translates to “grilled chicken” but means any grilled food on skewers.  They have all your classic chicken parts, but also things like octopus, beef tongue, and pork belly.  

Beautiful presentation of fried oysters

We started with some daily pickles, fried oysters with curry mayo, and a glass of sake that was described as having “shiitake and caramel” notes.  I’m not sure if my sake palate is experienced enough to discern those exact flavors, but it had a complex flavor and went wonderfully with these dishes. 

The fried oysters were fluffy and delicious, topped with edible violets, micro-greens and impossibly straight and tiny slivers of radish.  The daily pickles were generous portions of daikon, eggplant, and cucumber.  We tried to ration these and eat them slowly, a bit with each small plate we shared.  We couldn’t stop ourselves, however, from eating them all within a few plates.

Fresh and served at the perfect temperature

We ordered some yellowtail belly and mackerel nigiri, and we savored both amazing cuts of fish. A lot of sushi is served too cold. This fish was the perfect room temperature, with a minute bit of wasabi between the rice and the fish. 

Yakitori

From the yakitori menu, we tried pork belly (butabara), chicken and green onion (negima), and chicken meatball (tsukune) skewers.The tsukune came with a raw quail egg on the side, and we were instructed to dip our tsukune in the egg and then roll it in fine shaved dried fish (bonito).  You may think their price point is a bit high, but the quality is really divine. I have not had tsukune that good anywhere outside of Japan. In fact, it was even better than some in Japan.

Tempura is always a good decision.

We finished off with some shrimp, moroheiya, and maitake (hen of the woods mushroom) tempura.

I lingered over our small dishes, ordering sparsely and in spread out bursts. This style of eating is unusual in American establishments, but not in Japan, and I felt totally comfortable doing that here. Even with my numerous questions (What’s moroheiya? What does that triangle image on everyone’s shirt mean?), my waitress didn’t seem annoyed by me at all, and all her food recommendations were honest and right on. She said she was proud to work at Fukumoto. 

Oh, and the triangle image on their shirts?  That is Kazu Fukumoto’s family crest.  Any Japanese person that puts their family crest on their restaurant must be proud of it, too.  This place is an absolute must visit.  

{Fukumoto Official Website}

TAGS : East Austin , Fukumoto