It's official - I am in love with Austin Restaurant Week. After using it as an excuse to visit four "special occasion" restaurants in two weeks, how could I not? More importantly, this week I ate at Uchi and Uchiko on back-to-back nights. That pretty much qualifies this as the best week ever, in my book.
I have long thought that I preferred Uchiko over Uchi. My favorite meal in 2010 (which, regrettably, I never got around to blogging about) was at Uchiko. But my ARW meal at Uchi was so mindblowing that I am forced to re-evaluate that stance (requiring additional "research" meals, of course). It was so epic that it requires a full blog post, not just a Food Photo Friday. So, here you're going to get photos of my ARW Uchiko meal. Although it was not as good as the Uchi meal, it was still excellent, and I for sure would not have kicked it out of bed for eating crackers, if you know what I mean.
We started with an amuse bouche of house-made sweet potato chips, served with a sweet potato purée.
Although it was not on the Restaurant Week menu, we knew we had to get an order of Uchiko's edamame, which is the best I've ever had and doesn't cost any more than a bowl of edamame at any other restaurant. It's grilled, which adds a smoky, roasted quality to the beans that tastes fantastic.
In order to maximize the number of things we got to taste, we each ordered different things for each of our three courses. Our terrific server, Robert, orchestrated the meal so the courses landed one at a time.
First up was the yokai berry - raw Atlantic salmon served with dinosaur kale chips, Asian pear, bluberries, and yuzu. The yuzu was pretty sour and overpowered the other ingredients a little, but I liked the salmon-Asian pear-kale combination.
Next was the Shag roll, made famous by Uchi and beloved at Uchiko, as well. It's a roll with salmon and sundried tomato that's been tempura fried and topped with spicy sauce. I personally think that frying a sushi roll robs it of some of its best qualities - the lightness of the raw fish and the slight chewiness of the nori - but like I said, its a crowd favorite, so who am I to say?
Our first entrée was the wagyu prime rib, which was dressed in some sort of vinegary sauce and served with fresh wasabi root, candied garlic, and parsley. I honestly would've preferred a more straight-up soy sauce preparation on this, but the beef was very tender and flavorful.
Oh, pork belly. I can't quit you. Uchiko's ninjin bacon dish showcases grilled kurobata pork belly on a bed of pecan soil and topped with fabulously architectural carrots. Yesssssss.
For dessert, we started with their sweet corn sorbet, which comes with a wonderful polenta custard and is sprinkled with a bit of caramel salt. Caramel salt!
I chose the chevre fondant, which is accompanied by the loveliest tomato sorbet and a Sicilian pistachio soil. I was totally wowed by the way the fresh tomato flavor infused the sorbet - that is some dessert genius, right there.
Just when we thought it was over, Robert presented us with a complimentary order of their "dirt and berries" dessert. This is the kind of innovation that makes Uchi and Uchiko great, IMO. A thin layer of foie gras mousse is covered with a pumpernickel "dirt," out of which fresh and dehydrated Poteet strawberries are "growing." Beautiful, playful, and fodder for both the mind and the palate.
Now, if you'll pardon me, I have some exercising to do. Happy Friday!