April 14, 2024

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Austin Restaurant Tsuke Edomae Is the Best Omakase in Austin

4 min read

Welcome to the Scene Report, a new column in which Eater captures the vibe of a notable Austin restaurant at a specific moment in time. You can read other scene reports here, here, and here.

The one thing that most Austinites know about Japanese restaurant Tsuke Edomae is that it’s nearly impossible to snag a reservation for the much-vied-for omakase experience. And that speaks to the sheer talent of owner and chef Michael Che. He’s come come a long way from his food truck days when he opened his fully-realized restaurant in March 2021 in Mueller (fittingly taking over the space that had belonged to one of his mentors, Otto Phan). And it’s through the very intimate dining room where he shares his visions of nigiri, sushi, and other small bites with his guests.

Here’s the scene at Tsuke Edomae at 6 p.m. on a Friday in late February 2024.

The vibe: I had been lucky enough to go to Tsuke Edomae back in the summer of 2021, and, since then, there have been some slight changes. Guests don’t have to take off their shoes anymore when entering the dining room — my dining companion asked about that, and Chef replied that when he was recently in Japan training, he realized that most services don’t require that anymore.

Generally speaking, when you enter the space, there’s a calming karesansui garden (rocks) and a stool full of Japanese toys and figurines (hi, Totoro). Within the simple yet bright dining room, there’s a projection of a photo slideshow depicting Che’s Japan travels and work. The sushi bar has room for eight diners at a time, which makes it feel intimate without being too crowded. The room is well-lit so that guests can see everything. The soundtrack of soothing instrumental video game and whimsical music is a nice, fun touch — I recognized a Zelda song.

A chef presenting a wooden bucket of rice.

Chef Michael Che presenting his rice.
Nadia Chaudhury/Eater Austin

Tsuke’s add-ons — which have become more and more common in omakases where people can get extra or special pieces on top of the meal — are offered sometime during the earlier part of the service, which are then presented during the course of the meal. That’s nice because it allows everyone to end at the same time with the same pieces.

The food and drinks: The restaurant feels like a whole-hearted homage to Japanese cuisine. Che truly, truly, truly cares about his craft and sharing it properly with people. He is so proud of the fact that he sources his ingredients — fish and rice and the such — straight from Japan and the famous Toyosu Fish Market. He begins the meal by showing off the rice used for the pieces, because nigiri is nothing without its strong grain foundation.

And thus begins the 21 courses, where every item is spectacular. Che simply presents each piece to each diner with its name and answers any questions the diners might have. The Japanese golden cuttlefish was textured in this really nice way; the cod milt so creamy (yes, someone asked what it actually was); the add-on uni (I’m a sucker for urchin) some of the best I’ve ever had. The plated dishes were really fun, too, like the simple arugula salad or the shredded hairy Hokkaido crab served with its own head butter. The dessert was a nice touch too — a bruleed tamago served with green tea ice cream from food truck Merry Monarch Creamery.

A fish sushi.

The chutoro at Tsuke Edomae.
Nadia Chaudhury/Eater Austin

Shredded fish meat in a lump on a pretty plate.

The kegani at Tsuke Edomae.
Nadia Chaudhury/Eater Austin

How to actually get in: You tell me. I’ve never even managed to book my own reservations for Tsuke, despite having several browsers open to its Tock page five minutes before the 9 a.m. drop. But I have a good friend who has invited me to be her plus one on two occasions, including this time. Typically, Che releases reservations six months in advance, with the next time covering the period from Thursday, May 2 through the end of 2024. Otherwise, try your luck at adding your name to a bunch of waitlist days.

Why try to go: Che has crafted one of the most pleasurable omakase experiences in Austin. It’s evident he cares about his food so much, and that translates into dishes that really hit the diners deep. The value of the meal is also undeniable, being one of the more affordable options in town at $135 plus $40.73 in fees and tips, which means a total of $175.73 per person. The time and energy spent trying to secure a reservation is well worth the effort.


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