Sunday, October 5, 2008

Itching for Uchi

Saturday dinner in Austin was at Uchi, which we understood to be the best place for sushi in Austin. Wow, we weren't disappointed. As you approach the front door, you walk through a large zen garden that makes you feel guilty for stepping in it, even though there were seats and tables set up. Upon entry into the restaurant, you see the sushi bar with sushi chefs working elbow to elbow. Looking pass the sushi bar, you see a long dining room with ornate wallpaper, which creates the sensation of being in one of the cars of the Orient Express. Definitely romantic.

Alright, enough about the ambiance, the following are the flavorful fotos of our meal.

Our first appetizer was their uchiviche, their take on ceviche. Their version consisted of salmon, striped bass, vine-ripened tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, garlic and cilantro drizzled in a light vinegar mixture. This dish tasted much like sashimi with a tangy zingy kick. The tomatoes were fresh and the peppers were tender, probably from poaching. This was a great beginning to what was to come.

Saba Shio
This was their saba shio, Norwegian mackerel broiled and served with 3 different spices. The mackerel was delicious. The meat was firm and dense. The skin was crisp yet chewy. And both meat and skin were wonderfully melded by the flavorful, fatty fish oil through out the filet. Like I always say, fat is flavor.

Belly Steakie
Next up was the bacon steakie. Like it sounds, this was an dish of twice-cooked thick steaks of pork belly covered in a sweet brown sauce and sour green apples pieces. It's practically a self-explanatory name for the dish. If fat is flavor, this dish was almost purely flavor; wonderful, delicious flavor. Imagine delicious cubes of pork where it's layers of just meat, fat, more meat and more fat. Though others at the table stated they could have done without it, I personally thought it was brilliant.

Crunchy Tuna
This was one of their specials of the night. Tuna, avocado, and cucumber rolled in rice rolled in crunchy tempura flakes served with a spicy mayo sauce. Not a complicated combination, the simplicity of this roll was what made it so great. Fresh tuna and avocado is always a great mix with similar textures and differing subtle flavors. The virtually flavorless cucumber and tempura flakes added a great, crunchy texture. Though it may seem rather plain compared to the selection found at most sushi bars, it's a great roll.

Salmon & Escolar
The salmon and escolar sashimi were extremely fresh.

The mackerel was fresh, fatty, and unforgettable. A raw version of the saba shio mentioned above.

The broiled fresh-water eel was flaky, moist and made everyone smile.

Scallop & Avocado
I typically don't order scallops, but my wife is the fan and so we ordered a round for the table. This was some of the freshest scallops I've had ever. And since I'm a sucker for avocado, Uchi has made me re-evaluate my stance on scallops.

From left to right, we had salmon roe, flying fish roe, and sea bass.

The sea urchin was amazingly fresh. Too bad it was served with the mint leaves. My wife knew better and removed it before eating, so she loved her piece. I got a piece with very little mint and didn't hate the combination, but would have preferred it without the green leaf. Sadly, the others at the table said the mint overpowered the urchin and it was as if they were eating minty, mushy rice.

Foie Gras Nigiri
This was everyone's favorite of the meal, foie gras nigiri. Thin pieces of goose liver seared and topped with a bit of mint and crispy-fried something sitting in what I think was some of the pan drippings. When bitten into, the rich liver spreads like warm butter over the rice, prolonging the slight sweet and salty juices already permeating the rice grains. In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that roasted pig would be apart of my final meal. These morsels would also be included in said meal.

The delicate fish to rice ratio was delectably perfected. This was some of the best sushi rice I've had in Texas. It was just as it should have been, room temperature, held firm, and it seemed like every piece was covered with rice vinegar goodness.

Everyone loved this place and the wife and I would definitely go again if ever in Austin. In a rare stroke of genius, we went right when they opened for dinner and got seated immediately. Fifteen minutes into our meal the dining and outdoor waiting were packed. The food gods must have been smiling on me that day.

No comments: