Last night, Shawna and I went to Uchi for our seventh anniversary.  If you live in, around, or over Austin, TX, you’ve probably heard of the restaurant that sounds like an exclamation.  After opening in 2003, this Japanese restaurant quickly shot to the top of just about every local food poll and put Executive Chef Tyson Cole on the national map.

It seemes a shame that I’ve never been to Uchi, but as much as I pretend to be a foodie, I really can’t afford to go fine dining all the time.  Luckily, Shawna and I have an anniversary once a year, so we can always use that as an excuse.

So, Uchi–that small restaurant with its shifting menu–became our destination this year, and we couldn’t be happier with the experience.

First, the interior of the restaurant is beautiful, full of red and gold and dark wood.  A tiny bar gives way to a larger sushi bar, where the fresh fish is on full display.

The waitstaff was incredibly helpful, which is a godsend to folks like us, who were having mild anxiety attacks trying to figure out which items were appetizers and not wanting to look like idiots.

This brings us to the most important part… The food.  Truth is, there are no appetizers at Uchi.  Every dish is small and made to order.  Out waiter recommended three dishes per person, but we did two each and barely had room for dessert.  The menu features a variety of permanent options that range from five dollars to twenty or more, and the daily menu features those items that are a bit more expensive.  We went for a good mix, and I’ll go ahead and run it down with some comments for each.

Takara Nigori
(A cold, sweet saki that was a little too sweet for might taste, but very refreshing)

Crunchy Tuna Roll
Bigeye tuna, avocado, balsamic, tempura flakes, japanese cucumber
(A great dish to start with.  Good with soy sauce and wasabi or the spicy mustard they served it with)

Tomato Katsu
Panko-fried green tomatoes
(Cruncy, delicious, and hot!  Pretty good size, too)

Hotate Shoga
Maine diver scallops, fairy ring mushrooms, oven dried cherubs, hydroponic peashoots, miso emulsion
(Damn! Both the scallops and mushrooms were in top form, and Shawna and I cleaned this plate in just over a minute)

Kamo Zuke
Seared moulard duck breast, shitake mushrooms, broiled Japanese eggplant, tamari
(Incredible! Still cool in the center, and oh so tasty. Trimming the fat on one side to look like teeth in a jawbone was a strange touch, but I still ate this right up.  The mushrooms and eggplant might have been the best part of the night)

Peanut butter semi freddo with apple-miso sorbet and ringo crisps
(Normally, I despise the idea of any peanut butter ice cream product, but this was subtle and tasty and matched the apple flavor wonderfully.  A great way to end the night)

So, yeah.  Uchi caught me off guard with just how wonderful it is.  Anybody in Austin looking for a night out (and not too afraid to spend some cash), should look into Uchi.  We spent about $160 after tip, but we also bought a bottle of wine and splurged on some of the more expensive items.  There’s no reason a couple couldn’t get in and out for $50-$60.