Uchi, mmh, no thank you! (Austin)
Thursday, 6 May 2010
Read this review but then head over to the update!
Here we go again, I will be the one who complains and criticizes one of Austin’s so called gem!
If you’re going to be offended or think that I complain just because I like it then stop reading! We arrived at the restaurant expecting a wonderful evening and amazing food. Well, the evening didn’t last long, cost us a lot of money and we ended up finishing diner (actually eating) in another restaurant (I’m not going to tell you were I’d lose all credibility)!
As an introduction, please understand that for me, a restaurant as renowned as Uchi must perform without a flaw in absolutely all aspects of the experience including:
- Quality of the furniture
As an apero (pre diner drink), we ordered Sake, it was served in a wooden bowl filled with ice to keep it cool. We drank outside waiting for our table. Despite the restaurant’s reputation, the terrace is absolutely banal and badly furnished. No Japanes feel whatsoever, nobody paid any attention to the exterior atmosphere. Fair enough, I though well, nobody eats outside they certainly have put priority on the interior design. Not really, the restaurant could have been any old joint that you find throughout the country (and you know that I like them), well no, there was a sushi bar! More seriously, there was nothing creating a peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere. We were seated at a table in the middle of the dining room with passage ways on both sides. The “traffic” was dense, the noise loud and the overall comfort level well below my truck’s seats…
Seriously, the building is old, the paint dirty, the furniture cheap and guess what? They provide you with throw-able chopsticks that any take away carries!!! I was starting to feel uncomfortable, annoyed … really pissed! OK I’ll stop ranting about the place and talk about the food. Seated?
Well, we decided to order food to share, needless to say that the portions are tiny and that sharing often means eating 1 bite which will cost you an average of 10 dollars. Count on spending 250$ for a meal for two without pushing on the wine. Fair enough, I don’t mind if it’s worth it.
1st course: maguro sashimi and goat cheese. Japanes cuisine focuses on respecting the taste of ingredient, serving fishes and vegetables in their purest states. Chef Cole, on his website, rightly describes Japanes cuisine using a simple sentence which I like: “The essence of Japanese cuisine is the ingredients”. The 1st course in question was a Tuna sashimi served with fresh goat cheese crumbled on top. Let me tell you, the fish was fresh but no fresher than what I get at Mikado or central market, the goat cheese was a commercial, bad fresh goat cheese on the sweet side that would be used for kid’s lunch sandwiches in France. On top of the ingredients not being amazingly fresh, goat cheese has a strong flavor, citrus, herbs … goat which totally overpowered the delicate raw fish. Following the Japanese tradition, the fish would have been served with ingredient enhancing its flavor not overpowering it. Sad!
2nd course: Uchi shot: I’m a huge sea urchin fan and couldn’t believe my luck when I saw this item on the menu. The shot is a quail egg and a sea urchin served in a white bubbly.
Sea urchin is one of the most delicate seafood that can be consumed (taste and texture are extremely delicate, soft and subtle). Failure again! The bubbly was certainly not a Dom Perignon which is understandable but why on earth would you drown your sea urchin in a liquid that will completely cover its taste, transform it into a tasteless sponge????? I was disappointed, the sea urchin was most certainly drunk…
At that point we started becoming tense, we saw our bill increase very fast, our stomachs still empty and our palates frustrated.
Finally we ordered a warm course composed of baked avocado and seafood: avo bake. This was good! Good as in super creamy, rich baked goodness. But to be frank, nothing refined, Japanese, unique or incredible. It was filling which was good as at that point as we were starving.
So after 3 courses we told our stunned waitress that we needed the check and would depart shortly.
Despite the above review which is certainly not flattering, I have to praise chef Cole for his ingenuity. He succeeded in creating a “hype” and trendy place which attracts crowds. He is not the one to criticize, I believe that 85% of his clients have palates as refined as a mud-brick but want to make sure to be seen where “beautiful” people should be seen in Austin.
Hey, great news, chef Cole is opening a new location in north Lamar: Uchiko. Bravo!
801 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704