When I heard that Austin had an amazing sushi restaurant I was skeptical. I have pretty high standards for sushi. Sushi has become way too popular. One can get sushi at supermarkets, sub par restaurants…even at trucks on the street. Most sushi places are simply just not good. Where do I like to eat my sushi? Well, I’m pretty friendly with the staff at Morimoto (they see me there at least twice a month), Bar Masa (expensive but worth the money). It is rare that I find a sushi place that truly blows my mind. Uchi did this for me.
My party arrived late at Uchi (we were at SXSW and ran late for almost everything). Since we were late, the wait was 45 minutes. Not an issue, we sat down and grabbed a few drinks in the outside area. The outside area is nice, comfortable but a bit noisy. Our servers made us feel comfortable and made sure that our glasses were always full. We walked in and were seated at a booth towards the back. Our server walked up to our table and introduced herself. She began to tell us about the tasting menu. I was already liking the place.
We ordered a bottle of wine and the Uni Shot which consisted of a shot of prosecco, a quail egg yolk and sea urchin. I have to let you know that I have trouble with uni. There are only two places that I have eaten uni at and enjoyed it (Esca and Morimoto). This is an ingredient that must be prepared properly otherwise the texture can be an unpleasant experience. My uni shot was delicious.
We were now ready for our Signature Tasting Menu. It started off with an amouse bouche: Coconut-lime mousse, macadamia and Togarashi gel. This was an incredible combination and prepared me for an amazing meal. The macadamia served to balance the meal, the gel had a slight heat that played gently with the tongue. This dish definitely amused the senses.
Next came the crudo. It was a striped bass sashimi with a citrus vinaigrette, garlic and tobiko (flying fish roe). The striped bass was clean and fresh. It was a great choice of fish to be accented with citrus. The tobiko added an amazing texture. Again, Uchi worked to make the food in your mouth interesting and fun.
Next came the Maguro sashimi with goat cheese: bigeye tuna, Texas chevre, fuji apples and pumpkinseed oil. This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The tuna was simply gorgeous, the Fuji apples added freshness and crunch. I would never have expected all of these ingredients to work in such harmony.
The Maguro sashimi was followed by the machi cure: maplewood-smoked hamachi (yellowtail) yucca, asian pear, marcona almonds and white soy. Being Latina, I can tell you that if you throw yucca into any dish you’re already winning points with me. It added an amazing texture to counteract the tenderness of the fish. The pears brought in a little sweetness and acidity. The dish was lovely.
I am also a huge fan of eggs and one pot dishes. The one pot dish at Uchi was the hamachi nabe; it was composed of baby yellowtail, koshi hikari (a super premium rice), a farm fresh egg yolk and negi (similar to a scallion). I felt that the chef was somehow going into the depths of my culinary desires and putting them right in front of me. By this time I was starting to think that if they opened in NY, I’d have to constantly cheat on Morimoto.
The dinner progressed into the nastiest, naughtiest dish; bacon sen. Picture grilled pork belly with cipollini onion, fennel and the ever controversial herb: cilantro. The pork belly was sinful, the sweetness of the onions made for a nice contrast with the pork belly. The fennel and cilantro brought in a touch of freshness. While this was not my favorite dish in the tasting, it was perfectly constructed.
It was time for okashi (dessert). On this day, it was a smoked maple panna cotta, apricot, pistachio sorbet and shiso (Perilla). The plating was lovely. This is something I have yet to mention. This went not only for dessert, but for every dish that came out. The panna cotta was sweet without being overpowering or cloying. The shiso brought in a pop to the dish; it was brought in notes that reminded me of cinnamon and star anise. The pistachios brought in the texture to make the dish ever so interesting.
I loved my experience at Uchi. Our server was knowledgeable about ingredients and cooking methods. On top of that, she was super friendly. In every dish, the chef kept all senses in mind. If you head to Austin, please do not skip out on this restaurant. It is pricier than most meals to be had in Austin; and far from downtown (grab a taxi – don’t walk there like I did) but a worthwhile experience. I will be returning next year when I go to SXSW.
Uchi is Located at 801 South Lamar Boulevard in Austin, TX 78704-1509 - (512) 916-4808