Had an orgasm in mouth. End of blog.
Oh, you want some details? No problem, fellow food fanatics!
Uchiko is James Beard winner Tyson Cole’s follow up to his award winning Uchi. Before I even made it through the door, I caught a whiff of the delectable scents which surround the restaurant like a magical mist. I was squealing on the inside because I knew my upcoming meal was going to be bomb diggity. And, yes, I glared with unbridled jealousy at all the people who were already seated and nom-nomming their manna.
I started off my culinary journey with some brussels sprouts coated with fish caramel, lemon and chili. Okay, don’t get mad, but I was so hungry, I was halfway done with the bowl before I realized I forgot to take a picture. My bad! You’ll have to settle for a description of the taste. The brussels sprouts were beautifully cooked with crispy fried leaves on the outside, and firmer, al dente leaves on the inside. The fish caramel sauce was savory with a hint of sweetness, and the lemon gave it a nice brightness. I could have eaten ten bowls of the stuff, but I decided to spare my roommate the inevitable tide of flatulence that would ensue.
Don’t get too riled, but I screwed up even worse than I thought. I forgot to take a picture of the second dish as well. Shame, shame, shame! *smacking my ample rump with a rolled-up newspaper* The negihama roll was treat number two. This roll is a very traditional roll made with negi (Welsh onion) and hamachi (yellowtail). Uchiko chefs did a great job balancing the flavors in this simple, but tasty roll. Too much onion overpowers the mild taste of the fish, and too much rice dulls the taste of everything. Each piece of this roll was a perfect bite.
Third time’s a charm! I finally pulled my head out of my *ss and remembered to take a picture of the gyutan nigiri. OMGerd! I have always enjoyed some tongue (get your heads out of the gutter, you pervs), but this tongue had me tongue tied. The gyutan nigiri is grilled beef tongue treated with yuzu kosho, a paste made from fresh chilies fermented in salt and yuzu zest and juice. It was delectable. The tongue was super tender and full of flavor. It was so rich, it really needed the sushi rice to offset the fat. Each piece just melted in your mouth.
The next course, sazae-oni, sounded a little off-beat, so I knew it would be perfect for me. The sazae-oni is a dish comprised of basil-fed snails, Hokkaido milk bread, fuji apple, and a smattering of light purees. The snails were small but packed some serious flavor. I was tickled by the whimsical name Chef chose for the dish. There are variations of this Japanese lore, but in a nutshell, a sazae-oni is a demon that takes the form of a turban snail. Once the demon snail reaches maturity, it becomes a shape shifter, often taking the form of a beautiful woman. One such sazae-oni even got onboard a pirate ship and bit off all the pirates’ testicles. Guess she preferred snails over oysters. Tee, hee, hee.
And now for something totally different. So if the snails were a gentle breeze, the boquerones nigiri were typhoons. I knew what I was getting into since I’m a lover of anchovies, but I figured something unusual was up when the plate came out with two pieces of avocado nigiri in addition to the Spanish white anchovies. I tried the boquerones nigiri first, and the flavor hit me like a fish bomb in my mouth. The sushi had bottarga, a type of cured fish roe, and a touch of bright gremolata on it to enhance the flavor of the boquerones. For anchovy lovers, this fish is a taste of heaven, but for me, it was a bit strong. I quickly ate a piece of the avocado nigiri, and suddenly, it all made sense. The two paired together perfectly like tequila and lime.
The next dish was much anticipated. I’m a huge lover of pork so when I saw grilled pork jowl on the menu, I just had to get me some. Bonus, it was served with brussels sprout kimchi. Now we’re talking! The kimchi cuts the rich fattiness of the pork jowl beautifully while giving the dish some nice crunch. The fat was grilled just enough to release its luscious juices while still maintaining its texture. No mushy fat here. This amazing creation was finished with some preserved lemon and a tart yuzu crème fraiche. This was a very well-balanced dish.
To finish off this delightful meal, I decided to have a Su style dessert – marvelous and wonderful beef. Bring on the Tiger Cry maki! This scrumptious roll is made with grilled wagyu, rice paper, red pepper, and charred green onion. Wagyu is a breed of Japanese cattle which is bred to have superior marbling, and since more fat equals more flavor, I’m all about the wagyu. Typically, wagyu beef is cooked just enough to release the mouthwatering fat so that each bite is juicy. This roll was sweet, savory, and spicy all at the same time. Umami bomb, anyone?
My dinner at Uchiko was simply an amazing experience. Talk about impeccable service! They have found the balance between friendliness and efficiency. Each person I had an interaction with had a smile on his or her face and was very professional. All the servers knew every single component of each dish. Even though the place was packed, empty plates were carried away quickly, and my server checked on me several times. Well done, Uchiko team! If you get a chance to come to Austin, Uchiko is a cannot miss sort of experience. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.