Thursday, January 5, 2012


The new hot Japanese place that's getting a lot of buzz? No, not Uchi/Uchiko. Kome -- serving up authentic, home style food.

Open since the end of October, Kome is operated by a Japanese couple, who previously brought us bento boxes at the farmer's market, followed by the Sushi-a-Go-Go trailers. Take Asazu previously worked at Uchi, before he and wife Kayo launched their own food businesses. Executive Chef of Uchiko and current Top Chef contender, Paul Qui (also owner of the East Side King Asian fusion trailers), is also said to be very fond of Kome.

I arrived a few minutes ahead of my lunch companions, and asked our waiter if he had any favorite items on the menu. He said he was partial to the gyu-don, a rice bowl (donburi) with beef and onion, as well as the gyoza, which were filled with ground pork. I ordered some genmaicha tea (green tea with toasted rice) and studied the menu. My foodie friends and I all agreed to order a few different items and just share. It's always more fun that way!

We started with the recommended gyoza, which were some of the best seared I have come across! Forget steamed dumplings/pot stickers/gyoza, they all need to be like these, nice and crisp on one side, and soft on the other, and still steaming hot when you took a bite. The pork filling had nice flavor, with something a little zippy/tangy in them that I can't totally place. Yuzu (a type of Japanese citrus) perhaps? We also got the veggie tempura, which consisted of onions, zucchini, and slices of kabocha squash, which was certainly the best one of the three.  Zucchini sort of has no flavor as it is, and onions are onions (think these were sweet onions of some sort). Kabocha is a nice winter squash, not unlike pumpkin in taste or appearance; it's used a lot in Japanese cooking during the cooler months. (I came across it a few times during my recent October trip to Japan.)
We chose two of the rolls, the #11 Rock 'n Roll (with tempura shrimp, avocado and carrots), and the #13 Spooky (with tuna, avocado and salmon). Both very fresh, and the larger one being a bit more difficult to eat!
And then the Tonkatsu Ramen bowl. This was downright fabulous! The broth is made by simmering pork leg bones for hours on end....the breakdown of the marrow is what gives the broth it's milky color and sumptuous flavor. From the 12 o'clock (okay, 11:55) position, that's a piece of nori (seaweed -- what is used for wrapping sushi rolls) sticking up, and next to it are some type of greens (chard? not sure what it was), corn, slices of pork belly, soft-boiled egg with fried onions or shallots, kamaboko (pressed fish cakes), and what looks like carrots on top is actually slices of pickled ginger. Oh, an while you can't really see them, there were a whole lotta nice fresh noodles under all those toppings. Really a delicious bowl! And the waiter had brought a sesame seed grinder and white pepper, which I had forgotten about until we were mostly through the bowl, but they do add a nice little extra dimension.
The serving dishes at Kome are a nice mix of your typical Japanese pieces, like the tea cups, and the small bowls for dipping sauces, and then your whiteware pieces like what the tempura and rolls were served on. Decor is sparse, but it emphasizes the clean interior lines. I liked how the vertical support beams had various Japanese labels on them, I think many from sake bottles. The staff was friendly, and our waiter helpful with suggestions. It definitely feels like a neighborhood hangout, nothing stuffy or pretentious about it.

Kome, which translates to rice,  has recently been written up in Austin 360, mentioned by Eater Austin as one of the most exciting new places to open, and has been receiving a host of other press, well chronicled by their Facebook page. And I'd say it's certainly well-deserved. Their lunch and dinner menus are completely different, so I look forward to going back and trying new dishes with foodie friends who like to share.

Bits and Bites 2012


22 Trattoria and Wine Bar  on West 6th near West Lynn


La Sombra
El Greco -- reports that they've gone AWOL, but I have not confirmed
McCormick and Schmick -- really, M and S couldn't make it? Their happy hour was WAY too affordable, and it will be missed! That leaves a large vacancy in the Frost Bank Building.
Shoreline Grill

Newsy Stuff/Events.....

This week's food section in the Austin Chronicle has some GREAT lists, from 2011 food/restaurant success stories to savory and sweet favorites. All in all, 9 top ten lists to keep you well fed!

And, for more lists to keep handy, check out Eater Austin's quarterly list of 38 top places in town.

Chef Tyler Johnson out at Bacon...

A Torrid Affair's next event is January 16th at Springdale Farms, a six course offering from Barley Swine's Bryce Gilmore, and the drinks of Dwayne Allen Clark from Peche. Tickets are $100, and benefit the Dell Children's Medical Center and the Sustainable Food Center.