Houston Sushi: Uchi (Mar. 2013)
Exec Chef: Tyson Cole
Chef de Cuisine: Kaz Edwards
Date: March 20, 2013
I have wanted to try Uchi for a few months now, especially after hearing my friends from Texas rave about it. Anyway, I decided to visit a friend in Houston because I was in the area (New Orleans! Whoo!), and I decided that I should finally try the restaurant!
The restaurant’s a LOT bigger than I thought it would be. The restaurant would NOT be able to be as big as it was in NYC haha. Oh, Texas… Anyway, the restaurant has five separate dining areas. The wine bar seating has no reservations, and you can sit there and eat or drink if you can manage to snag a seat. The cocktail tables outside serve cocktails and little snacks, such as edamame. The tables and sushi bar usually have reservations, but you can still get seated if you wait (usually at least an hour); Uchi only allows reservations for a relatively small portion of the tables/seats. You can’t reserve directly for the sushi bar, though; it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis. Lastly, the private dining room is generally for dinner parties or business dinners.
We arrived about an hour early, so we just started chatting a bit near the wine bar. We eventually snagged seats at the wine bar and ordered a few appetizers before we started our main meal (comprised of mainly nigiri) at the sushi bar.
The food’s fantastic and really, really creative. I personally think some of the places in NYC are better in terms of traditional nigiri, especially when you consider only the rice and the fish. I’ve had places in NYC with better fish, rice, or both, but what this place does well (and it does it REALLY well) is execution of more modern and innovative flavor combinations. You have to check out the menu to see what I mean! (You can check out the menu here.)
I really wish I could eat everything on the menu. Everything just looks… delicious, fascinating, innovative, creative, and at times even genius, crazy, or both. Chef Cole is onto something here. I really wish NYC had a restaurant like this.
The rice was about room temperature and could arguably be a little warmer. Also, it wasn’t too fluffy; it could definitely be a little softer and fluffier.
The fish was really fresh overall, but I think the rarer pieces (like the threadfin snapper or the albacore) were better than the more common pieces (like akami or sake). I thought this was a shame; really good akami is something that can make me a really happy eater—the akami here was merely good :(.
Regarding the nigiri, the fish didn’t always melt in my mouth, and it could be pretty inconsistent. At times, the sushi piece was amazing, and the fish tasted really, really fresh; at other times, the nigiri merely tasted pretty good.
I’m a little sad that Uchi doesn’t serve chūtoro, ōtoro, or tamago. I’m curious as to what Chef Cole would do with those ingredients.
Cool Tasting 1:
Thinly-sliced flounder sashimi, candied quinoa, and olive oil
The dish tasted better as I ate more of it. A lot of it was really rich, but the candied quinoa did a good job of cutting down on the richness and provided a nice break from the olive oil and flounder.
Cool Tasting 2:
Salmon, striped bass, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, and cilantro
Cool Tasting 3:
Baby yellowtail, ponzu, Thai chili, and orange supreme
Cool Tasting 4:
Atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale (flash-fried and blanched), Asian pear, yuzu, and green tea oil
The kale, salmon, pear, and yuzu worked together surprisingly well. Then again, combinations that work surprisingly well seem to be the norm here. It might be more appropriate to say that this unexpected combination worked well… as expected!
Spicy Crunchy Tuna
Bigeye tuna, avocado, jalapeno, and cucumber
Snow crab, avocado, cucumber, and lemon miso sauce
I’ve been craving California rolls for a while now (thanks, Leslie!), so I just decided to go ahead and order it. Honestly, I didn’t think this was too amazing. It tasted like a really, really good and refined California roll, but it was nothing compared to the previous courses or the upcoming dish!
Ham & Eggs
Katsu pork belly, egg yolk custard, Espelette pepper, beer mustard, and Miso Tamari sauce
This. Was. Amazing. It shouldn’t be hard to see why hahaha. Pork belly and egg yolk… Mmmmmmmmmmmm.
After eating these appetizers, they seated us at the sushi bar. This is where our real meal began!
Coconut Foam with Green Tea Crumble
The coconut foam was a great refresher; it prepared me well for the upcoming onslaught of sushi.
1. Sake (Atlantic salmon).
2. Akami (lean tuna).
3. (Left) Hirame (flounder).
4. (Right) Suzuki (striped bass).
5. Hamachi (baby yellowtail).
6. Madai (snapper).
7. Shima aji (striped jack).
8. Sake toro (salmon belly) with ginger and ikura (salmon roe).
9. Iwana (Arctic char).
10. Bincho (albacore).
11. Kinmedai (golden eye snapper / alfonsino).
12. Hotate (spicy scallop) with avocado.
13. Uni (sea urchin) from Santa Barbara, CA.
14. Ikura (sake-marinated salmon roe).
15. Gold tobiko (flying fish roe).
16. Tako (octopus).
17. Bara mutsu (seared escolar).
18. Gyutoro (seared short rib).
19. Wagyu (seared beef).
20. Avocado and yuzukoshō.
21. Ebi (black tiger shrimp).
22. Nasu (Japanese eggplant) with lemon miso.
23. Itoyori (threadfin snapper).
24. Mejina (opaleye).
25. Unagi (freshwater eel).
26. Anago (saltwater eel) with orange and ginger.
27. Saba (mackerel) with cherry tomato and truffle.
28. Boquerones (Spanish anchovy).
29. Seared foie gras with quinoa.
Chocolate milk, toasted milk, and iced milk sherbet
This dessert consisted of chocolate milk mousse, fried milk, iced milk sherbet, pieces of chocolate, and chocolate powder. The hard textures of the pieces of chocolate and fried milk contrasted nicely with the soft creaminess of the mousse and sherbet, and I also enjoyed the contrast in temperatures between the sherbet/mousse and the fried milk. There were a lot of things going on in this dessert, and it was really, really delicious (which I guess is what dessert is all about)!