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Otoko's Yoshi Okai talks tattoos, rice balls and his most memorable punk show

Otoko
Photograph: Kate LeSueur

There's something infectious about Yoshi Okai's smile, a toothy grin that spreads even wider when the Kyoto, Japan-born chef breaks down a 160-pound bluefin tuna at Otoko (which happens frequently here, one of Austin's best sushi spots). Okai, who moved to Austin in 1998, heads the multicourse omakase restaurant at the South Congress Hotel, but he's just as comfortable in a tattoo parlor or at a punk show. We chatted with the chef about some of favorite local spots. 

Home cooking
"I go to Asahi Imports to get a taste of Japan. I love their rice balls."

Not too crazy
"I’m inspired to keep our guests excited and surprised through their entire dining experience. I always try to create something new and different for each course, something they’ve never seen before, but not too crazy."

Pick your poison
"The most memorable show I've been to in Austin was Poison 13's reunion show at the [now-defunct] Sound Exchange in 2000. It was awesome because I had never seen them live and always wanted to; it was like a dream come true. And Thee Oh Sees on the South Lamar Bridge. It was crazy. The bridge was moving like a wave."

Tattoo talk
"It depends on the tattoo, but a few of my favorite artists are David Wofford at Atomic Tattoo, Raul Arevalo at Eastend Tatoo and Rachel Kolar at True Blue Tattoo. Mike Carroll from Poison 13 recently passed away, so I want to get a Poison 13 tattoo as my next tattoo. That band is the reason I moved to Austin in 1998."

Sound selection
"When I'm in the kitchen, I like to listen to anything from the Gun Club, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Goat, Moon Duo, Oh Sees or the Black Angels."

Low-key hangs?
"Yellow Jacket, Justine's, Liberty, Clark's and Nickel City."

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