If you are a regular patron of sushi, keep your past notions and experiences aside when you come to dine at Uchiko. The restaurant describes itself as “contemporary Japanese dining” but I say it’s an entirely new cuisine waiting to be discovered.
2011 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef Southwest, Tyson Cole has married the finest ingredients from around the global to create a mouth-watering taste retreat in the heart of Austin. When my friend, Dianna and I pulled some strings to get last minute reservations at this popular eatery, we were in for an experience of a lifetime!
While waiting at the bar, I noticed they had an extensive list of sake and a few good wines. However, I was disappointed there weren’t any cocktails. Perhaps it’s not suitable to have a cocktail in a traditional Japanese farmhouse (that description lost me). The ambiance appeared to be more of contemporary and hip, than a farmhouse. Dark wooden panels and subdued lighting made it perfect for a date night, even though we were two girlfriends enjoying a gastronomical night out.
Our wonderful waiter, a young gentleman from Croatia suggested we order 5-6 plates to share. Each dish was handcrafted and took a while to prepare, especially when they were so busy on the Saturday night we were there. The menu is divided into different sections and we decided to try something from each of them. There are also specials offered that change daily.
We tried yokai berri from the cold tastings. It was the perfect blend of melt-in-your-mouth Atlantic salmon with crisp dinosaur kale, sweet Asian pear and yuzu sauce. We devoured as we watched our neighbors playing with their order of the hot rock (sear it yourself wagyu beef served on a sizzling Japanese river rock.) An attention grabber for sure!
The tempura nasu were perfectly battered and fried circles of Japanese eggplant served with a sweet chili sauce. I could eat an entire bowl of these and still be wanting more! From their cooked menu, we had the suzuki yaki, pan fried scrumptious pieces of grilled Mediterranean sea bass in a bed of cherry tomatoes and tarragon. It came close to a seafood dish you would find at an American seafood restaurant. Note to self – don’t order cooked fish at a sushi place.
The sushi rolls were perhaps the most disappointing section of the menu. We didn’t quote enjoy our selections of p-38 (Japanese yellowtail, avocado, yuzu kosho, grilled negi, cilantro) or the crunchy tuna. Our charming waiter brought us complimentary pieces of madai, a good luck charm traditionally served at festivals and special occasions in Japan.
Needless to say, every single item we had was number one in terms of quality, creativity and freshness. Uchiko swears by sourcing only sustainable and responsibly fished ingredients, which clearly reflects in the taste. Each piece of fish is given individual attention, making sure it is sliced and served to reflect the most optimal texture and flavor. You are a lucky fish to be served here…
What made my evening was the fried milk dessert. It was a piece of art that I hated to destroy but couldn’t resist it’s rapture in my mouth. Deep fried frozen custard was served with iced milk sherbet and thin layers of toasted chocolate. Dianna watched me as I finished the last crumbs. Yummm!!!