I've only been eating sushi for a couple of years. Why? Because women have always been the ones to try to get me to eat sushi, and they don't usually know good food. Too much atmosphere and other sundry things in their restaurant recommendations. Hula Hut? Seriously? But my current GF lived in Okinawa for almost four years so she has street cred.
So I made my first trip to Uchi last Saturday. I was mostly turned off in the past by the scenester vibe I've always gotten from the place. And perhaps I've subconsciously held a grudge because Uchi is in the same building where the Skyline Grill used to be. God damn their venison chicken fried steak was good.
The first thing I see in the parking lot is a dude in a bowling shirt and fedora with a taller-than-him girlfriend. The Buddha says I must eliminate my desire to rage on him so I comply and enter the restaurant following what I assume to be the eightfold path.
We had reservations at 5:30, but the restaurant was mostly empty. When we left a couple of hours later, it looked like the Confederate wounded scene in Gone With The Wind. Either make reservations or get there early.
Some kid at another table had ordered a Ramune so I was hoping to catch a glimpse of them opening the damn thing.
No such luck. She was probably watching me in return because watching me try to use chopsticks is like watching Christy Brown try to use nunchuks.
So here's what we ordered:
Takara nigori sake - cold
I don't like sake, probably because I've never had good sake. The waiter said it had a cream soda taste, and my palate is generally that of an eight year old so I liked it enough to order another.
Spicy crunchy tuna roll - bigeye tuna, Japanse cucumber, toasted black and white sesame
This was also part of the happy hour menu so we ordered one to have something to eat while we looked at the menu. It came with some kind of orange mayonnaise/dipping sauce that overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the fish. I much preferred slightly dipping it into my concoction of ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. BTW, their ginger and wasabi are freaking fantastic. I found myself eating the ginger in between courses as sort of a palate cleanser.
Maguro sashimi and goat cheese with cracked pepper, Fuji apple and pumpkin seed oil
They use a local goat cheese that is very mild and creamy. We stacked the sashimi and goat cheese on the apple so it did require a bit of construction. But it was fantastic.
Hirame usuzukuri - thinly sliced flounder, Spanish olive oil, smoked sea salt, yuzu zest, daikon, crispy quinoa
Flounder has a very mild flavor that takes on the flavors of with whatever it's paired. I also prefer the milder Spanish olive oil over the Italian variety. Yes, I'm saying this dish had mild flavors, but you could taste everything.
Hamachi cure sugar-cured maplewood-smoked baby yellowtail, yucca crisps, asian pear, garlic brittle
The server described the Japanese amberjack as 'the bacon of the sea.' THIS.
And it did taste like bacon. We stacked everything on the yucca crisps, including the marcona almonds and golden raisins (currants?), and we went through this like Nimitz went through the Pacific.
Hakujin roll - fresh salmon and grilled asparagus, rolled in warm tempura flakes
I didn't like the asparagus because I thought it added too much texture to the dish. The light crunch of the tempura and the salmon were great though. Take out the asparagus for the win.
Mustang roll - freshwater eel, avocado, yellowtail and golden flying fish roe
I would eat this out of a dog's ass. I might even eat this with dedfisher and his girlfriend seated across the table from me. Freshwater eel is the shit, and the roe was great. I'm totally asking for this in the cafeteria at BarkingCarnival's corporate office in Springfield.
Bacon steakie - twice cooked Kurobuta pork belly with green apple
Kurobuta is Japanses berkshire pork. Berkshire pigs haven't had the fat bred out of them so their meat is much more flavorful than the dry ass pork you get at the supermarket. If you don't believe me, check out these folks at the Austin Farmer's Market. The fat just melted away in my mouth like pork cotton candy.
Valrhona chocolate and wasabi fondant with pistachio ice cream and orange tuile
Chocolate and wasabi? WTF1. But it worked brilliantly. And why wouldn't it? Chocolate is a witch. Just a hint of wasabi at the end.
The waitstaff was excellent, and only one guy had an ironic moustache.
Luckily he didn't wait on us because I don't want Harry Reems handling my food.
My only complaint about Uchi is the noise. It's deafening, like being at a football game someplace other than Austin. At times you can't even hear the person across the table from you. That sort of sucks for a restaurant.