Saturday, July 27, 2013

Uchiko in Austin--Another James Beard Winner

Very Busy at Uchiko
I have been reading about Uchi in Houston and the 2011 Regional James Beard award winner Tyson Cole during my trips to the Southwest over the last 6 months.  Texas is really leading the country in progressive food experiences.  Tyson Cole has locations both in Houston and Austin, Uchiko is one of two restaurants in Austin.  This week while out on business we decided to try one of the two restaurants out.  Our goal was to get into Uchi but it was sold out so we grabbed a 5:30 reservation at Uchiko.  A keyto a popular excellent eatery is even at 5:15pm there are people waiting for an open table.  I do not go to Japanese restaurants very often not that I do not like them but I have become jaded, most of my experiences have been at Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills so the standards have been set high.

Hama Chili Great Start
Lets get to the experience, as soon as you sit your server brings hot towels to cleanse your hands and refresh you for the upcoming meals.  Uchiko's menu is designed around sharing Tapas style and the server recommends 3 per person shich turns out to be perfect.  We started out with the Hama Chili which is Baby Yellow Tail with Thai Chili and Orange Ponzu.  The Tuna was tender almost like a fine piece of rare beef the first bite was citrussy but as it settled in your mouth the heat was turned on not stifling but enough to finish it of perfectly.  Chef Cole also makes great use of Micro Herbs to turn up the flavors in many of his dishes (note the pictures) also there is no need for Soy Sauce and Wasabi so don't ask. 

Crunchy Tuna
We then recieved our 3 choices from the Makimono portion of the menu simply described as Sushi.  We started with Crunchy Tuna, followed by the Shag and then P-38.  They all have in common a flavor creativity that is not found in traditional Sushi to give it a contemporary flare.  One had Jalapeno, the other had Cilantro and the the last one had Sun Dried Tomato.  These subtle additions and the use of dish specific sauces like Sumiso differentiate this menu from others.  The Shag was served tempura style and the outside rice created a crunch, The P-38 had Fish Roe that created a great snap.  The point is each dish stood on it's own with it's own profile.

Dewbee Chicken
Shisito Peppers

The next round consisted of Shishito Peppers, Tiger Cry and Dewbee Chicken, Shishito Peppers are my favorite starter they are unpredictable could be mild could be hot, The Tiger Cry is a cured Waygu Beef roll and the Dewbee Chicken is a fried Chicken roll.  Each had it's own personality, Tiger Roll was the chew of the beef and rice paper with the tang of the red pepper and the bite of the green onion, The Dewbee Chicken had a crunchy outer sweet rice roll with banana leaf.
Overall the experience was very good my colleagues Jim and Pete were equally impressed.  I am now excited to go to Uchi.  This is not a one and done restaurant it would take you many trips to run out of new tases.