Every year, to celebrate the anniversary of my birth, Heath surprises me with a dinner to a fancy restaurant. This year’s treat: Uchi. I’ve long heard of the wonders of this magnificent Japanese/sushi restaurant, but never had a chance to experience its greatness until now. It won’t be my last visit.
The restaurant is located on South Lamar, maybe a mile or so from downtown. It’s really a prime location, just minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown festivities, but close to the hippy chic areas that make Austin weird. But the location is probably the least interesting part of this little gem.
The red patterned wallpaper and dim lighting lends Uchi a welcoming ’60s-like quality. As an avid Mad Men fan, I appreciate this nod to eras of the past. The menu spans multiple pages and is painted with unfamiliar words and combinations of ingredients. Lost in the bewilderment of exotic entrees, we asked the waiter for suggestions, which turned out to be one of the better ideas we’ve ever had.
Under the direction of both friends and our waiter, Heath and I opted to go the appetizer route, ordering small portions of many dishes on the menu so that we could sample the widest variety possible of Japanese delicacies (how American of us). We began with a cold dish, maguro sashimi and goat cheese, which we devoured in under 2 minutes, even armed with chopsticks, which severely slowed down our ASE (average speed of eating). Then we moved on to bacon steakie followed by two different plates of sushi. The zero sen is yellowtail with avocado, crispy shallots, yuzo kosho, golden roe and cilantro. Heath’s favorite, the shag, is also a house favorite and is made up of a delightful and equally unexpected combination of salmon and tomatoes and is tempura fried. We ended the night with a dessert independent of any flavors and texture I’ve encountered, a brown sugar sorbet and ginger consomme.
After 2 hours, 2 Japanese beers and an unfortunate chopstick mishap (a neighboring table got out of control with the dinner utensil which concluded with a chopstick down my shirt), Heath and I left with food in our bellies, smiles on our faces and a delightfully tasty sensations still dancing on our tongues.