Uchi Restaurant and My Dining Philosophy

26 08 2010

I love dining.  You could say that dining is my favorite hobby, whether this occurs at home or a restaurant.  I love the greasy spoons, the mom and pop places, the fresh off the boat seafood restaurants where you leave smelling like a fryer and fish. I love the barbeque joints where you need a bib, or the mobile food shacks full of tacos and mango salsa. I love serving a huge southern buffet at home or sitting down to an intimate potluck meal with old friends.  I love dining. 

Dining is more than food however, it is sitting and conversing with the people and food before you.  Perhaps this sounds a bit odd, but every now and then I have a conversation with my meal. Something to the extent of, “oh my goodness, I am the luckiest girl in the world to be eating you right now.  Please be kind to my sensitive stomach, and let my taste buds enjoy every last bite. “

Dining takes practice, as it requires you to relish the moment.  In today’s culture, eating is a process that can take as little or as long as you like, but can you really enjoy something when you swallow your meal in less than five minutes? I would argue no.  Good dining can also be affected by the atmosphere of your location. Putting all traditional notions of fine dining aside, it is possible to have the best experience of your life at a food shack off the interstate. 

Dining also allows us to experience the heartbeat of a new city, and the people who live in it.  A new dining experience is where I get my kicks, so I avoid chain restaurants on vacation and scout out where the locals want to eat. More than likely, the local spot is where you want to find yourself.   I find myself inspired, refreshed and generally happy after dining somewhere new and it is a positive experience.

One such experience occurred recently at Uchi in Austin, Texas.  Uchi is a contemporary Japanese restaurant and sushi bar. With the capacity to seat 100-125 people (my guess), Uchi is the spot for sushi and other specialties in Austin.  Here your wait staff will take the time to walk you through the menu, offer pairing suggestions for wine and beer, and allow you to sit and eat.  You will not be pushed from your table, although the wait for others might be forty-five minutes to an hour.  The décor is subtle, the sushi bar approachable and functional but it is the food that steals the show.  

At the onset of our meal at Uchi we discussed the options of only ordering appetizers with the server, and he confirmed that it would be enough food for both of us and we would not want for anything afterwards. He was correct.  Instead of the appetizers arriving all at once (and no, there were no potato skins), our server knowingly coursed (one item at a time) each order.  Upon the arrival of the food the server explained the ingredients and instructions on proper way to eat (as it is needed for a few of the items on the menu).  One such order is the scallop hot rock.  A hot rock is placed on a bed of rock salt and on a separate plate are the raw scallops and orange oil.  Using chopsticks, you sear the scallop on either side and eat! It was delicious.  Another delicious hot tasting included tempura whitefish, shitake mushrooms, ginger and eggplant frites paired with a delicious broth that you could pour over the items or dip. 

We dined for over two hours on appetizers and dined well.  Not only did we enjoy the delicious food, but I was allowed to catch up with my friend and not feel the pressure to move along for another group of diners. 

We will return to Uchi on our next trip to Austin for the complete dining experience. 

pictures from http://www.uchiaustin.com/