u is for uchiko

That’s right: we’re back to the A to Z restaurant list! After a covid-induced hiatus and a transition to normalcy, we’re making our list (and checking in twice). We left off with Thai Kun and now move to U.

Uchiko (child of Uchi) is Tyson Cole’s first outpost from the original Uchi, an empire that now sports several restaurants around the country. Started in 2010, Uchiko resides in a Michael Tsu-designed space that has aged well. Led by Cole, a James Beard award winner, Uchiko presents modern Japanese cuisine, fusing new ingredients and ideas into new flavors and experiences.

We originally tried to eat at Uchi, but woo-boi is it hard to get in there! Uchiko is not much easier, but we were able to land a couple seats at the sushi bar where the light is bright and the interaction with the sushi preppers is lively and delicious in its own right.

We hadn’t been to Uchiko since their soft opening. That is not a judgment on our experience then: it was quite wonderful. Given Uchiko’s success, you have to make reservation weeks in advance, and we don’t work well that way, often adjusting the evening’s activities to our mood and exhaustion. Regardless, this visit was wonderful as well.

We started with a couple drinks, she with a takara nigori (unfiltered sake, $5.5HH) and me with a murasakino (lemongrass sake, blueberry, and makrut; $9HH). Hers came in a small glass sitting in a small bamboo box where the overpour flows into the box (and you can drink out of it). Mine was fruity and happy.

With the helpful input of our personal sushi chef, we tried a variety of dishes, including bluefin zuke nigiri, masu crudo, hama chili, and the hot rock flank. Since we were there relatively early, we also partook of several happy hour specials, including nigori, murasakino, bluefin akami nigiri, and bincho nigiri. Our chef even comped us a dish because he wanted us to try it.

Being part geologist, I had to try the hot rock flank, which I also had at the soft opening. With this dish, out comes a hot rock up on which you cook little pieces of beef. The rock this time was ceramic whereas earlier it was actual rocks, but even then I wondered how long those rocks would hold up with the temperature differentials (and the potential for shardy explosions). Regardless, the dish still brought a smile to my face. I imagine those who grouse about self-checkouts wouldn’t like it (“I paid $18.50 to cook my own damn food!”).

The other plates and bites were blurs of bliss, each airy, aromatic, and ambrosial. There was sweet citrus, pepper nibs, and salty echoes of the ocean. The cuts of fish were pillowy and plush and deftly danced across the tongue like Daniel Craig in a Belvedere Vodka ad.

For dessert, we devoured the sweet potato okashi (chocolate, burnt honey, candied olive; $10, photo at top) conjured by Ariana Quant. The entire dessert menu is pure sorcery with titles and descriptions that intrigue and presentation that awes. And the prices are amazingly reasonable for these plates of visual and art.

Eating at Uchiko ain’t cheap. After all, eating sushi is like gambling: you don’t know you’re broke until you’re broke. Each bet/order is small potatoes until you realize you’ve given away the farm. But what a glorious way to go bankrupt!

web&where: Uchiko, 4200 North Lamar Boulevard, (512) 916-4808
what’s the deal? sushi! (table service)
overall: **** (food****; drink****; atmosphere****; service****; instagrammability****)
cost: $$$$$$

our scale:
–          meh [think twice]
*         OK [it’ll get the job done]
**       good [solid neighborhood joint]
***     damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
****   yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best] each $ = $10; cost is based on a typical dinner entrée and appetizer (no drinks)

each $ = $10; cost is based on a typical dinner entrée and appetizer (no drinks)

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