For my boyfriend’s birthday this year, he wanted to go to OTOKO again. I had never been before, but he spoke very highly of it and couldn’t wait to show it to me. OTOKO is a 12-seat Japanese restaurant located at the South Congress Hotel in Austin, TX, helmed by Executive Chef Yoshi Okai. The multi-course omakase experience blends Tokyo-style sushi and Kyoto-style kaiseki into a unique tasting menu based on ingredient availability and seasonality. I love trying new things and love sushi, so I was all in!
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We went to the Kaiseki-ryori version, which is a 12-course kaiseki omakase meal, presented weekly on Tuesdays + every first Thursday. This is a shortened version of their classic omakase. Kaiseki is considered a haute cuisine style meal in Kyoto – and across the world. Our meal followed a structured guideline of coursing and dish construction, with a beautifully orchestrated procession of dishes that took traditional kaiseki and gave it a unique twist. This experience is $150 per person. To complement your omakase experience, OTOKO offers an impressive selection of sake, carefully curated to enhance the flavors of each dish. We ended up adding the sake-tasting option to our meal and enjoyed three different sakes at various points of our meal.
Included with your reservation at OTOKO is a complimentary drink at WATERTRADE, the intimate Japanese-style cocktail bar attached to OTOKO. Reservations are taken for cocktail tables, with walk-ins available for the bar seating. It features an extensive list of specialty Japanese whiskies, sake, and craft cocktails curated around ingredient seasonality. Guests of WATERTRADE also have access to a limited izakaya-style menu featuring bar bites and specialty dishes from the OTOKO culinary team. We were served a complimentary sake and also ordered a cocktail each before we were seated for dinner.
Omakase, a Japanese term that translates to “I trust you,” is a dining style where the chef takes complete control of the meal. Diners surrender their choices to the chef, who crafts a personalized, multi-course tasting menu that showcases the freshest seasonal ingredients and their culinary skills. OTOKO fully embodies the spirit of Omakase, promising an unforgettable dining experience.
The restaurant accommodates only a limited number of guests each night, ensuring that every diner receives the utmost attention and care. Be sure to plan ahead and secure your reservation well in advance, as seats at OTOKO tend to book up quickly. Tickets are released on the first of each month, so make sure you check in and snag yours.
The restaurant’s interior design pays homage to traditional Japanese aesthetics, with clean lines, natural wood elements, and subtle lighting creating an ambiance that’s both calming and inviting. The intimate setting sets the stage for an exceptional dining experience.
The heart of the OTOKO experience lies in the omakase menu, which evolves with the seasons and showcases the chef’s creativity. All were truly amazing and I’m not sure if I could pick an absolute favorite, but some standout dishes for me were the escargot, ocean trout, hon maguro, binchotan hamachi, and the tempura. Here’s a glimpse into the kind of dishes you might encounter during your visit to OTOKO.
- Sashimi Perfection: Begin your culinary journey with a selection of the freshest sashimi, expertly sliced and elegantly presented. Each bite is a symphony of flavors and textures that dance on your palate.
- Exquisite Nigiri: OTOKO takes great pride in its nigiri creations, featuring a variety of fish and seafood, each with its own delicate toppings, such as freshly grated wasabi or a touch of yuzu zest.
- Grilled Delights: The Omakase experience may include expertly grilled items like robata-style skewers or succulent Wagyu beef. The charred, smoky flavors perfectly complement the seafood.
- Seasonal Specialties: OTOKO’s menu evolves with the seasons, allowing you to savor the best ingredients that nature has to offer. From delicate spring vegetables to rich autumn flavors, each visit brings a new set of surprises.
- Culinary Artistry: Every dish at OTOKO is a work of art. The presentation, from the choice of ceramics to the arrangement of ingredients, showcases the chef’s dedication to his craft.
The ever-changing menu at OTOKO reflects the seasons, allowing diners to experience the full spectrum of flavors that nature offers throughout the year. Depending on when you visit, you might encounter dishes that celebrate the vibrancy of spring, the richness of summer, the earthiness of autumn, or the comfort of winter. This commitment to seasonality ensures that every visit to OTOKO is a unique and memorable experience.
This experience definitely made me want to come back and try not only the full Omakase but also the Sushi Omakase, which is a Tokyo-style sushi omakase dinner, only available on Wednesdays that features a specially curated selection of nigiri + sashimi throughout 20+ courses and is $295 per person. Everything we had was absolutely delicious and created a memorable date night experience.
In addition to its emphasis on seasonality, OTOKO is also committed to sustainability. The restaurant strives to source ingredients responsibly, supporting local farmers and fisheries whenever possible. This dedication to sustainability not only ensures the freshness and quality of the ingredients but also aligns with a broader commitment to environmental and ethical concerns in the culinary world.
OTOKO in Austin, Texas, is not merely a restaurant; it’s a delightful journey into the world of Japanese omakase dining. From the serene ambiance to the carefully crafted dishes and impeccable service, every aspect of OTOKO is designed to provide an unforgettable experience for diners who seek the pinnacle of culinary excellence. If you’re a food enthusiast visiting Austin, make sure to secure a reservation at OTOKO and let Chef Yoshi Okai take you on a journey of flavors that will leave a lasting impression. Your trust in the chef will be rewarded with a dining adventure like no other.