Who would ever guess that in the middle of Texas, I would finally try Japanese food? Well that is what happens when visit the land of culinary exploration in Austin and get a chance to visit Uchiko. You can get even the most skeptical person to eat food unlike any other. I will admit that I am a traditionalist. I want my food cooked, not burnt and beyond recognition, just closer to brown than a fleshy tone. Sadly, this prejudice against sushi restaurants has kept me from leaping up to try new places. While traveling in Austin with friends (and some members of DDs) I found myself at an intersection of a carload of sushi lovers and an opportunity to try the cuisine of a James Beard award-winning chef, Tyson Cole. I went along knowing that they would probably have a magical time and I would hopefully find something to eat for dinner. What I didn’t expect is that I would experience some dishes that were less slimy fish and more of a magical explosion of taste.
The restaurant is described as Japanese farmhouse dining and sushi restaurant and has an atmosphere of classy casual. The staff has the highest standards of service without acting like they are trying or putting on airs. Hungry visitors can eat in the dining room or enjoy the Sake Social Hour from 5-6:30 but it is popular and the wait list starts to fill up fast so arrive early!
In total DDs style, we tried a plethora of dishes so we could all share in the experience. Most memorable of all was the roasted brussel sprouts that have received loads of rave reviews and for good reason. Made with lemon and chili, these little crispy gems are quite unlike the boiled tragedies of my youth. They were so good that we continued to order them again and again. I mean really…what brussel sprout farmer hit the motherlode when they started supplying Uchiko?!
I never expected that I would try Gyutan Nigri (grilled beef tongue) but I did and was quite surprised that it wasn’t so bad. There was also pork ribs with a sweet chili sauce and pork belly with apple, cilantro, kimchi (heck yes!) and negi, which Google tells me is a Welsh onion. I say to that, the same thing I said most of the night “whatever that was, it was good!”
We washed all the tasty treats down with little glasses of Takara Nigori, which is unfiltered sake and served on little wooden trays, or some nice cold beers.
I did draw the line at raw fish just because of the texture but I was willing try to try most everything else. (some dishes took some more prodding or determination from our host but I eventually gave in) J The one thing I did learn was to not judge a restaurant by its cuisine because you might miss out on a great adventure. Recently I heard the best way to describe this experience… “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make it one worth watching.”