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Uchiko: child of uchi.  Tyson Cole's second Austin restaurant with executive chef Paul Qui at the helm.  After our dinner at Uchi last spring, I have longed to visit Uchiko.  After seeing Paul Qui's quietly professional and humble performance on this season of Top Chef, I knew I had to go now!  Once he wins Top Chef, and he should, it may be nigh impossible to get a table.

I made a 5:00 p.m reservation because I am now hip to the sake social hour with it's fantastic menu of smaller bites of regular menu items, and because I am uncool enough to eat dinner at 5:00.  On arrival, I was immediately glad for the reservation.  The bar area was already humming with activity and the restaurant seemed filled to capacity by 6 p.m.  We enjoyed a chile lime salted peanut while we waited for our table--Sophie with a Ramune, me with a glass of Hughes Beaulieu Picpoul (@$7 for a generous pour).

Our waiter arrived with hot towels and steered us through the menu.  After dining at Uchi, I knew how well the front of the house staff paced the courses.                                          Kakiage:tempura sweet potato fritter

Watching this arrive at a table next to us, Sophie exclaimed, "we should get that!"  Tempura forever eludes me at home.  My fritters are always leaden and oil-soaked with the vegetables sliding out of their batter faster than Paris Hilton slips out of her undergarments.  These were ethereal without a whisper of grease and disappeared quickly.  We also thoroughly enjoyed the brussels sprouts--crispy and tossed with a lemon chili sauce. 

More tempura!  Sophie's choice--"I like this better than Uchi.  There's a lot more for me to eat."  Again, that cloud of tempura batter sprinkled with togarashi and white soy, sheer perfection.  Lest you think I went to a sushi restaurant for fried vegetables...

 Look at these beauties!  From the daily special menu: kaiwari and fresh mackarel nigiri.  If only every sushi restaurant could give the attention to detail that elevates a slice of raw fish and white rice to this level.  Warm rice, tender fish, minimal seasoning to allow the fish to shine.  How ironic that the best sushi I have ever had has been in central Texas.

From the sake social menu I tried the koviche: fresh diver scallop, tomatillo, kalamata, black lime.  Accompanied by the thinnest "corn chips" ever--it was like a really sophisticated ceviche.  Also the yokai berry: atlantic salmon, dinasour kale (a combination of kale chips and fresh kale), asian pear, blueberry and yuzu.  What a combination of flavors!  Apologies for no pictures of these excellent dishes, but the light was waning, and I was hungry....

                                Hanna: cauliflower, daishi, white soy

This beautiful dish, laid out like a painter's palette, was Sophie's favorite.  It was on the daily special menu, and the chef wanted to know what we thought of it.  We thought very highly of it.  A simple ingredient, exquisitely prepared and presented. 

We finished off the dinner portion of the meal with "ham & eggs" : makimono with katsu pork belly accompanied by a yolk custard dipping sauce.  A crowd-pleaser.  Sophie finally ate pork belly without removing the fatty layers.  This must be a time-consuming roll to make--the pork belly was warm and still crispy, surrounded by warm rice--immediately to the table without allowing pork's coating to steam into oblivion.  Amazing.

If you have followed our blog for any length of time, you know we are dessert-centric.  Sophie and dug deep and found a corner in our bellies for TWO! desserts.  I had the special: coconut gelato with tiny thai tea gelee gems, orange and apricot gastrique.  Sophie had the fried milk: iced milk sherbet, fried milk (little purses bursting with a creamy interior), chocolate wafers, cereal crumbs and a chocolate semifreddo.   Their pastry chef is a magician, and we'll keep saving room for his creations.

By the time we left, there was a 90 minute wait for a table....I'd wait without batting an eyelash for the opportunity to be enchanted all over again.  Top notch service, beautiful food, stunning interior...a winning combination.  Worth a trip to Austin, get here soon before Paul Qui wins!

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References (2)

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    Uchiko - Best of San Antonio & Austin - food & photography
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    Uchiko - Best of San Antonio & Austin - food & photography

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