Simple, delicious Japanese food has landed in NW Austin
Ajishin Sushi & Noodle (no website.... yet?). Located at Parmer near McNeil, a few doors down from Little Woodrows.
These guys just opened yesterday, so we went and checked it out for dinner tonight. I'm nothing at all of an expert on Japanese food, so I'll keep this more informative and less opinionated.
The menu is simple, yet varied enough to keep it interesting. The basic categories are 1) sushi, 2) Udon noodle bowls, 3) Soba noodle bowls, 4) larger dinners, probably meant to be family style, pegged under a category called "Kyo-Chirashi".
(note: looks like lunch is just Udon and sushi)
About 8 - 10 different Udon bowls, ranging from about $7 - $10. Wife and I each had one and thought all aspects of them were tasty (again, I don't have much of a frame of reference here).
4 soba bowls, IIRC.
Sushi menu is straightforward and unpretentious. For nigiri, they have all the standards, plus some goodies such as Uni and octopus. We sampled a mackerel and a tuna piece, which were quite fresh and delicious. There are 8 or so straightforward rolls (by that I mean no sweet sauces, mango, or funny names). Their more traditional Japanese rolls included pickled radish, natto, and burdock. Prices of all nigiri and rolls were very reasonable.
Didn't see any beer or wine on the menu, so I would assume BYOB is cool? Not sure about that though, will need to ask next time.
Would love to hear opinions from some Austin hounds more well-versed in Japanese food. I'm excited to explore the menu further.
I 2nd the yakitori comment. Seems like those grills in Japan have a 'beak to tail' approach with things like grilled chicken hearts/skin/livers on the menu. The only yakitori i've seen here are rather plain grilled chicken breasts on skewers with a sauce. Not bad exactly, just... dull.
here's the review i just wrote for yelp.
also attaching "before" and "after" shots of the maiko udon.
unfortunately, there's no website for me to reference.
i will also add that i got the sole gaijin waiter, who didn't really keep the conversation going when i asked questions. so i ended up eavesdropping instead and learned about the liquor license on the way. the 3 other tables were all asian, which i usually take as a very good sign.
i've been waiting for their opening since seeing the banner outside.
this is very traditional, and very good, japanese food.
the decor is simple, befitting its noodle house roots.
the service is still working out the kinks (no chopstick holders, etc.).
what they lack in polish, they make up for with warmth and enthusiasm.
for the unfamiliar, udon and soba dishes are not spicy or loaded with seasonings.
the table next to me asked for a "spicy" condiment and they were scrambling to come up with something other than the shichimi togarashi on all the tables. if you think this is going to be like vietnamese pho, a sichuan hot pot, or any kind of thai soup, you will be disappointed.
the menu is divided into:
hot noodles (udon or buckwheat soba)
cold noodles (udon or buckwheat soba)
nigiri & maki sushi
there are about 8 hot udon selections, and 5 cold dishes.
i noticed there were 2 or 3 things not listed on the take out menu.
today, i got the udon maiko. the menu indicates the base is a broth of fish and kelp, with wakame, green onions and imitation crab. my dish did not have any imitation crab, however. the maiko's toppings were 3 medium tempura shrimp, and some matchstick tempura onion and sweet potato. normally i ask for the tempura on the side so i can dunk it in the soup rather than have it melt into it. but, i forgot. the broth was subtle and delicious. the noodles were firm and toothsome, plus the bowl was a decent size so as to be filling without being overwhelming.
the dinner prices range from $6.50 to $11, depending on what you order.
the lunch prices are the same, plus they have some combo deals:
udon and chef's sushi choice for $8.50, 2 sizes of a sushi lunch ($9 & 12), curry rice for $7.50.
it's described as a rice with baby sardines, gourd, thinly sliced cooked eggs, peapod, and your choice of topping. it's then broken down into sashimi on the side ($17.50 to $26.50) or udon on the side ($13.50 to $21.50). given the price point and pictures, these seem to be more in line with a large entree or a smaller dish for two. i didn't try any so can't comment on its deliciousness.
it's a small and traditional assortment of nigiri and maki.
think burdock, plum, gourd and natto in addition to tuna, salmon, etc.
again, i didn't try any so i can't comment on the quality vs. price ration.
nigiri is divided into $2/$2.30/$2.50/$3.75 sections.
maki is divided into $3.50/$4.50/$9 sections.
they have assortments with either a tuna or california roll and 8 ($16.50) or 10 ($22.50) nigiri.
sides of soup, salad, seaweed salad, rice, edamame, pickled radish, and drinks like teas and soda round out the rest of the menu.
a waiter told the table next to me that they will have a full bar in a month, so that will be a plus.
the kamogawa (curry based broth) and the duck broth (not listed on the take out menu i grabbed) are next on my list.
things i would love to see here:
1. happy hour specials and pricing
--my office and so many other business are near here; it's a good area for this.
2 yakitori & kushiyaki
--the sign mentions grill, and they seem to have one so i'd love to see it put to use.
--there are no noodle houses in austin, and ramen is sorely missing!
i will definitely be back.
but not on a tuesday, because that's when they close.
i tried going saturday around 4, but they split up their days--
something like lunch open-3, and then dinner from 5-close.
instead, i ended up at old school grill for a HORRIBLE meal (will update separately).
so, when i stopped in tonight, i was really jonesing for some udon.
decided to skip the sushi again; it's pretty traditional offerings and not too expensive.
was going to have the ajishin, which has fried tofu plus tempura shrimp and veggies.
(i sub the hard boiled egg for a poached egg and it makes the broth so silky and tasty).
but, the curry udon caught my eye.
holy crap, it was really good.
usually my curry meals consist of the thai or indian varieties.
it's probably been a decade since my last japanese curry.
are there many other restaurants in austin that offer it?
japanese curry is a totally different, and delicious, animal.
dark and rich, with onions and pork melted into it, and a little pepper and carrot.
the pork fell apart in the curry, giving it tons of flavor and thickness but it wasn't too greasy.
they also have a curry rice lunch special, but i really preferred the texture of the bowl of udon.
between this and the udon with egg, tempura and tofu, i am all set for the winter.
i'm kinda worried they won't make it, though.
i keep seeing lots of very suburban-looking families come in.
they sit down, and then make faces as they peruse the very traditional menu.
i think they just see "sushi" on the sign and assume it's something different than it is.
plus some lady mistook it for egg roll express, which is situated at the front of the strip.
so, if you like more traditional japanese offerings than your typical sushi fusion place, give it a go.
4 of us went at lunch today and had a very nice meal... good udon soups and quick service despite the crowd. Dina - you don't need to worry about this places' success if the crowds I saw today are a sign. At lunch there were full tables throughout, I think I saw it was completely full at one point. Lots of Japanese being spoken near me as well (I wonder if there was a post on a Japanese-centric board about this place this week?). I second the food quality review above!
In case anyone is considering stopping by Ajishin soon for some of their great chow, I saw a sign on their door saying that a family member has passed away and they will be closed until September 21.
All the best to the lovely family that runs this place. Be sure to support them once they're back up and running.