Considering that Adam took over 130 pictures of London restaurants we ate at, it was only natural that we start chronicling our thoughts and opinions about the food we eat. We've totally become accidental foodies. It all started out when Sheila started calling Adam "the human trash compactor"; since he eats almost anything. But somewhere along the way we started having discussions about food and seeking out culinary adventures when on travel. We bring a unique perspective to this arena as we're both vegetarians (no meat, poultry, or fish). I suspect we will both have varying opinions on the food, and hope to not only have a record for posterity, but provide some fun, useful if not amateur insight.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Uchiko, a culinary experience in Austin

Paul Qui fame skyrocketed with winning Top Chef Texas last year. He was the Executive Chef of elevated hot-spot Uchiko in Austin, which serves is some of the most amazing food we’ve ever had. The hype is real.

Located in North Austin, the cars in the parking lot, entrance area, and modern storefront resembles a swanky Hollywood bar rather than a farm to table Japanese restaurant. Nevertheless entering through the door, you’re transformed into haven of dark woods, warm Edison bulbs, red brick accents, and metal/glass enclosures. The noise level was quite high, but we were seated towards the back in a large booth overlooking the open kitchen. Our waiter graciously helped up navigate through the menu and recommended several of our dishes after we told him we were vegetarian. All dishes were family style, so we decided on a mixed of five.

Shishito Yaki - Spicy grilled shishito peppers with sriracha dipping sauce. Packed with heated on both levels (peppers and sauce), this was a great sinus-clearing starter. The peppers were wonderfully grilled in their natural state, meaning no seasoning. The sauce was flavored well, but was a bit too hot for my taste. We were actually surprised at the quantity, could have served a table of four so just keep that in mind.

Brussels Sprouts - Crispy brussels sprouts with lemon chili. The best brussels sprouts that we’ve eaten in our entire life! Came to the table warm and fragrant; this dish had an Asian flair to it. This was probably due to the lemon chili, which was perfectly balanced with sourness and heat. The brussels sprouts were quick fried and still retained their earthy quality. I recommend that everyone who visits Uchiko order this dish.

Yokai - Golden beet, myoga, rice, and avocado wrapped in soy paper. Essentially sushi rolls, this dish was on the menu with salmon, but the waiter was able to make it vegetarian. We didn’t really know what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised. The beets and myoga were served warm with the cool rice and avocado; all the ingredients were fresh and balanced. Overall this was a great dish, but not unique, given that in SF we have similar vegetarian sushi options.

Diachi - Sunchokes with crosnes, turmeric, and brown butter. Sheila felt the dish was prepared very well with complex flavors. However her first bite was sandy/grainy, because one of the sunchokes was not washed. I felt the dish tasted like it should have with the crosnes (Chinese artichokes) providing the crunchy elment, and turmeric & brown butter providing savory elements. We ordered this off the daily menu, so no guarantee it’ll be around next time,

Fried Milk - Three ways with chocolate milk, toasted milk, and iced milk sherbet. As our waiter noted, this is the most popular dish on the menu. We enjoyed parts of it, but collectively there was too much going on. The chocolate milk was prepared as powered sprinkling along the plate bottom. I have to admit it was a bit chalky. The toasted milk was coated in corn flakes then fried. This part tasted a bit bland. The ice milk sherbet was quite good, rich and creamy with being overly sweet.

Uchiko was memorable. Think about it, this is a modern farm to table Japanese restaurant in the middle of Texas. It’s quite the scene with a very long wait list. I’m giving it a 8.5 and a most go for any trip to Austin. 

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