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What I Ate: September 12, 2010 (Uchiko, Nordstom's Cafe Bistro)

Posted 13 September, 2010 at 11:36pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Dinner: Tina and I headed over to Uchiko (4200 N. Lamar, Ste. 140, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 916-4808‎) for our second dinner there. Lighting was a bit mixed (making for poor photos) until I constructed a wall using menus and finding a spot shaded from window light.

They brought us an amuse of compressed cucumber in a Spanish white anchovy vinaigrette with basil flowerettes. Very crisp, very flavorful.
Uchiko - amuse bouche

We started with roasted golden beets ($8) served with skyr yogurt, bitter greens, acacia honey, and fennel powder.
Uchiko - roasted golden beets

akami te big eye tuna, watermelon, cilantro, coriander ($14). This is still our favorite dish at Uchiko. It's the perfect chilled dish - sweet, spicy, herbaceous, crisp, and meaty, all at the same time.
Uchiko - akami te

koviche fresh diver scallop, tomatillo, kalamata, black lime ($19). The scallops were sweet and silky. The other flavors in this dish were strong and overpowered the natural flavor of the scallops until it way mainly a texture to support the interacting flavors.
Uchiko - koviche
Uchiko - koviche

cobia crudo caribbean kingfish, cucumber, jalapeno ($18). This was an interesting play on textures. The cucumber base (under the shallots and fish - you can see it barely peeking out in the lower right corner) provided crunchiness while the fish was soft and tender. Additionally, the pickled vegetables provided a nice amount of chew. Unfortunately, the bold flavors didn't work together for me as much as I had hoped - acidity, ginger, slight spiciness (the jalapenos were seeded to provide more fruitiness than spice), and mint all were very fresh tasting and mixed rather well, but in the end I wasn't interested in it all that much.
Uchiko - cobia crudo

gyutan nigiri grilled beef tongue, fish caramel, maldon ($4 each). The tongue practically fell apart in my mouth of it's own accord releasing wonderful flavors and blending with the sweet sushi rice. I don't think I'm ever going to come to Uchiko without ordering this and the akami te.
Uchiko - gyutan

toledo maki big eye tuna, chorizo, fried almonds, grilled garlic ($14). This is an intriguing combination of flavors which is definitely worth trying. The smoky chorizo bits didn't really work for me though; I think I prefer more traditional flavors.
Uchiko - toledo

rabbit special ($22?) - grilled loin and roasted rack. The loin pieces were a bit overcooked (tough and somewhat chewy) and tasted quite a bit like chicken breast (lean protein). The exterior of the loin was nicely seasoned, but the flavor doesn't extend all the way to the middle. My first mouthful was excellent with a good amount of truffle flavor infusing itself into the protein as I chewed, but the magic was missing in the next several pieces. The rack was also overcooked (the bones charred to the point of falling apart into ash in my fingers). We heard excellent reports from two other food bloggers, but one other couple we knew dining that night said theirs was undercooked.
Uchiko - rabbit loin and rack

uni sea urchin, basil, meyer lemon ($5). "Mad fresh" said the guys in the kitchen, and they were not wrong. Delicious… perfect.
Uchiko - uni

take nabe japanese mushroom, koshi hikari, farm fresh egg, bushi ($16). We ordered this with reduced salt because last time we had it, it was very salty (had to send it back, then they sent us one that we could eat, but it was still fairly salty). The take nabe we received was still quite salty (especially compared to the rest of the meal), but it's so hard to resist the amazing flavors of this dish - sour, salty, earthy… it's amazing. (But salty.)
Uchiko - take nabe

fried milk chocolate milk, toasted milk, iced milk sherbet ($9). Probably my favorite dessert at Uchiko. The panko breading provides a crunchy and slightly chewy shell to a luxurious warm (almost liquid) custard. The chocolate mouse is so airy that it feels both light and rich at the same time. And the milk sherbet blends really well with both.
Uchiko - fried milk

After this second visit to Uchiko, I feel like the cuisine here is a little more adventurous than Uchi. I might not have liked all the combinations, but I was glad to try them out. Overall, I think my visits to Uchi have been consistently better, but part of it may be because Uchiko is taking me out of my comfort zone.

Lunch: In preparation for the Uchiko dinner, we had a very small lunch by splitting a Roast Beef on Ciabatta sandwich at Cafe Bistro. That is a great sandwich - the next time we're there, I think we might both order one! Still juicy roast beef, salty and rich mayo based sauce, tomato slices that taste like tomatoes, and excellent grilled onions.
Cafe Bistro - Roast Beef on Ciabatta

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