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Texas French Bread heightens its ambitions with new executive chef Max Mackinnon

Matthew Odam
Michael Che creates sushi in the edo style, with little adornment.

Austin lost one of its best sushi restaurants earlier this year when Kyoten Sushiko closed. But if chef Michael Che’s vision becomes reality, there will soon be a new contender in the category. And it will be in a very familiar place.

Che plans to open omakase sushi restaurant Tsuke Edomae in the small space in Mueller that was home to chef Otto Phan’s Kyoten for several years.

The chef plans to open his restaurant in March. He has been running food truck Tsuke Honten, which features possibly the city’s most affordable tasting menu (one that sells out a month in advance).

Che, who worked in sushi restaurants like Soto and Mikado before opening a trailer on East Seventh Street that he eventually moved to its current location at Hopsquad Brewing Co. in North Austin, intends to serve an 11-course omakase menu of classic edo-style sushi, delivering cured and aged fish and seasoned rice in a style that reflects the traditions of early 19th century Tokyo.

“It speaks to me — simply rice and fish,” Che said of the unadorned style. “I simplify it to where there is really no garnish. I want to be the Pied Piper for Mother Nature’s ingredients.”

Che said his understanding of the possibilities of what sushi could be changed one night a few years back after dining at Kyoten, the restaurant Phan also grew from a trailer and later shuttered to move to Chicago in 2018.

“Literally after that meal, I sat in my car staring at my steering wheel and said, ‘What the (expletive)?’” Che said.

Tsuke Edomae will seat six guests at its two nightly services, with adjustable dividers offering increased safety for guests and the chef, along with a top-of-the-line air purification system. In addition to the 11-course omakase ($79), guests will be given the opportunity to order extra pieces a la carte after the omakase service, as well as bites like white fish, shellfish and uni.

When Phan decided to close his restaurant, which he had left in the hands of chef Sarah Cook when he moved, he visited Che to sample his sushi. Impressed with his flavors, commitment and technique, Phan offered Che the opportunity to execute his vision in the former Kyoten space.

“Oh my god, this is a dream,” Che recalled thinking when the chance was presented. “This is where it all started.”

Tsuke Honten will continue serving Japanese street food like grilled meat skewers once Che takes his leave, though the trailer’s small omakase menu (already sold out until the end of the year) will be discontinued.

Michael Che's Tsuke Honten at Hopsquad Brewing Co. will continue to operate after the chef moves to open his new restaurant, Tsuke Edomae. [DIMITRI STASZEWSKI FOR STATESMAN]