Monday, December 20, 2010

Austin Restaurant Week Fall 2010: Uchiko


I have been wanting to try Uchiko for some time since its opening this year, but being a grad student, this place is just way outside of my budget.  Chef Tyson Cole, can you please open a student-friendly eatery? 

Thank goodness Uchiko participated in Austin Restaurant Week, and my mom was sweet enough to treat me to dinner here.

The dishes did not disappoint, but the portions were still a bit too small to fill us up, so we ordered two makimonos to supplement the restaurant week prix-fixe 3 course dinner.

The simple-yet-complex and flavorful yet-refreshing little amuse bouche defines for me what the original Uchi was all about.  I just knew that we were in for a treat.

Amuse Bouche - Compressed Cucumber

Mom and I each ordered different dishes for our 3 course meal but shared each of our dishes.  The first course dishes were the Suzuki Carpaccio and the Ika Yaki.  The sea bass was light yet flavorful with a bright and tingly palette.  The squid salad was very creative but did not leave much of an impression in either flavor or texture.  This set a pattern for the rest of the meal: one excellent dish, and one less impressive dish.

Suzuki Carpaccio - mediterranean sea bass, myoga, cilantro stems, thai vinegar

Ika Yaki - fresh squid, korean pepper, green apple, sorrel, red curry

We had the Shiki Sakana and Usagi Yaki for our second course.  The seared bass was jaw-droppingly delectable.  The seared skin was super crispy and the flesh was moist and tender.  The sauce...oh, the sauce was intense.  Mom and I made sure to scoop up every last bit of the lemongrass brandy sauce.  The rabbit confit came in a patty of shredded meat.  It was mushy and did not taste like it was "seared."  Although it tasted fairly good, I would not order this dish again, especially when the Shiki Sakana is on the menu!

Shiki Sakana - seared bass, grilled tomato, shiso, brandy, lemongrass

Usagi Yaki - seared rabbit confit, slow poached egg, celery, and madras curry

After the first two courses, mom and I still felt like we needed more savory dishes before the 3rd course dessert.  We decided that what we needed were some carbs, and so we ordered two makimonos.  The Toledo Makimono was really sweet because of the sauce, and when combined with the almonds and rice, it made the tuna completely undetectable.  The tuna was completely wasted in this roll.  The highlight was the grilled garlic and fried almonds, and not the actual makimono.  I was super curious about the Ham and Egg makimono and was pleasantly surprised by the creativity of the "egg" part of the roll.  The "ham" was the katsu pork belly filling and the "egg" was the white liquid emulsion in the photo below.  The sauce tasted exactly like a hard boiled egg.  It was kind of freaky-cool, but the best sauce was the lemon miso.  The roll was really delicious and the ingredients did not overpower one another like the Toledo roll.

Toledo Makimono - big eye tuna, chorizo, fried almonds, grilled garlic

Ham and Egg Makimono - katsu pork belly, green tomato, farm fresh egg, espelette with a trio of sauces: beer mustard, lemon miso, and egg emulsion

For our dessert course, we ordered the Sweet Corn Sorbet and Fried Milk.  The fried milk must be really popular because I remember having it twice before at Uchi.  I was excited about trying the sweet corn, but it was slightly underwhelming.  The good thing is that neither the corn polenta custard or the sweet corn sorbet is dessert-sweet, which my mom appreciates, but the novelty of the corn dessert wears off after a couple bites, and I felt like I was faced with a huge dish of corn.  As for the fried milk, I can do with less fried milk and more milk sherbet!

Sweet Corn Sorbet - polenta custard, caramel salt, lemon

Fried Milk - chocolate milk, toasted milk, iced milk sherbet

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