Monday, January 30, 2012

Event: Uchi Houston Grand Opening

One of the nice things about being an active food blogger is that you might occasionally get invited to a grand opening event.  I was very excited when I got the invite to go to Uchi Houston's Grand Opening event on Monday, January 30, 2012.  The location is the historic location of Felix's Mexican Restaurant on Lower Westheimer in Montrose.  Unfortunately the building had to be gutted and rebuilt from the inside.  The exterior facade was modified slightly, but the original arch shape to the windows I remember from my days in Grad School at Rice University remains intact. I was also informed that much of the wood used to make the tables and the entryway was recycled from other buildings rather than harvested from fresh trees.  I say Kudos for making a very green restaurant from the get go!

Now a little background on Uchi:

Chef Tyson Cole’s critically-acclaimed restaurant in Austin, TX has now come to Houston.  Uchi has a menu primarily revolves around sushi and other Japanese style cuisines, with some dashes of fusion which include pan-Asian influences, Latin flavours like Ceviche and local Texas cuisine.  His first location in Austin has been a resounding success, and many lovers of fine sushi and other Japanese cuisine have been eagerly anticipating its opening.  The restaurant has been taking reservations for a few weeks now, although it does not open until February 1st.  However, on Monday, January 30, 2012, the foodie community in Houston got a lovely tasting preview of what's in store for Houston Palates at Uchi Houston.  The restaurant is tucked into the lower Westheimer area very close to Katz's Deli, on the north side of Westheimer, just east of Montrose. 
Houston Food Bloggerati including Albert Nurick, Jack Tyler, Ashli Michelle, Joanne Witt, & Dr. Ricky.
Miya Shay was also present and was very kind to all of us Newsie Nerds.  
The event was very well run.  There were some of the best of Houston's Foodblogger and FoodMedia there at the event this evening.  I ran into Albert Nurick (principal writer/operator of HtownChowdown), Jack Tyler (of Jack Tyler Dines), Joanne Witt (of 29-95 Houston), Miya Shay of KTRK-13, Ashli Michelle (her Almost Veggie Houston blog is very well done), Dr. Ricky of  Dude, are you Going to Eat that?,  and many others in the local Houston Food Media.  It was a veritable Tweet-up for the Houston area food media.    Chef Tyson Cole was circulating and giving tours to the media that were present.  Overall it was a wonderful event that left me feeling quite full, satisfied and quite willing to share with the rest of you all.  


Now, for the tasting menu:
Excellent selection of many different dishes from Uchi Houston's menu.
I was fortunate enough to get to try most of them, with the exception of the
ham and eggs, and the kakiage.  
Although the evening was a bit of organized chaos, we were treated quite well by the staff and ownership of Uchi, and were provided with plenty of food, drink and good service.  I'm going to give a breakdown of the dishes and beverages I sampled with my takes on them.  Refer to the menu above for any of the dishes:


Food and Beverage:



Matsunoi "Wishing Well" Tokubetzu Hanjozo Sake:  This was a very fine Sake that started off with a slight dry palate, with a bit of a nutty middle note and finished clean.  About the best description I can give was that it was like a semi dry Chardonnay mixed with a very purely distilled and highly filtered vodka.  It was a  nice way to clean the palate and start the evening.  Grade: Solid A


Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll:  The fish had a pleasant, smooth, chewy texture that mixed well with the avocado.  The cool cucumber was a nice contrast to the spicy jalepeño.  The rice wrapped roll was served with 2 sauces--one that was a like a mix of Mae Polloy and Nuoc Mam--and was garnished with crunchy black sesame seeds.  This roll was a mixture of flavours and textures that were a delight in my mouth.  Grade: A+


Edamame: Uchi goes beyond the typical boiling/steaming with salt. After doing the usual preparation, they finish them on the grill.  This gives them a smokey flavour with a bit of a punch and separates them from the typical.  Grade: A


Dishes from Uchi including Crunchy Tuna Roll, Bacon Sen, a pork belly roll,
hamachili, smokey Edamame, and more pork belly rolls
Shag:  The salmon was fresh.  The tomato and the tempura were a nice mix alogether.  It had a nice crunch to it.  Was a little bland after eating the Crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll, but satisfying nonetheless.  Grade: B+


Uviviche
Uchiviche: A very interesting take on the wonderful Latin seafood dish known as Ceviche.  The salmon and striped bass were quite strong in flavour, but didn't overcome the other ingredients.  The item was sweet, savoury, salty and bitter at the same time.  I ate several of these and found it to be one of my favourites of the nighte.  Grade:  A+


Pine Ridge "Forefront" Pinot Noir: An excellent red wine--full of oaky top notes, smooth middle and a slightly bitter finish.  I can hear Paul Giamatti from the movie Sideways crying out with jealousy over this wonderful 2009 California Central Coast Pinot.  Grade: A


Machi Cure:  This was an interesting item.  I like yellow tail, but hadn't had the smoked baby variety before visiting Uchi Houston for this event.  The yucca crisp and the Asian pear mixed well with the fish.  The almonds and garlic brittle added crunch and a mild pungency.  This was overall pretty good and one I'd have again.  Grade: A-


Hamachilli: Another favourite of the night.  The yellowtail, golden tobiko and ponzu were crunchy and savoury in contrast to the sweetness of the mandarin orange section it was served on.  These were served on small bamboo flat bowls and we slurped them like raw oysters out of the shell.  It has a nice blend of sweetness at the front and spiciness at the end that made it my overall favourite of the night.  Grade: A++


Bacon sen:  This grilled pork belly on a skewer was full of bacony flavour and goodness.  It was sweet, smokey, and worked well with the other ingredients.  I wish they'd served more of these, but for what I was able to taste, it was awesome.  Grade: A+



La Craie Chenin Blanc, vouvray:  A rather fruity French white wine--2009 Loire Valley in fact--had a fruity front note, had an essence of white grapes and pistachios within it.  It was a fine wine to wrap up the meal prior to desser.  Grade: A

Item I tried that were not on the Tasting Menu:


Yokai Berry: Atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale, Asian pear, yuzu, Blueberry--this was a real feast of a tasting dish.  I shared this with 4 other foodies and found it to be quite wonderful.  Grade: A


Jar Jar Duck: coun­tryside farms duck, kumquat, endive, rose­mary smoke.  I shared this fabulous dish with the same 4 foodies and again, this was a true feast all the way around.  The baking of the elements in a jar reminded me of Mijune Pak's "Canadian Pie in a Jar" but with roast duck and kumquats.  This is a dish I will order again on my next visit.  Grade: A+++


Desserts:



On the left, Fried Milk.  On the right, Peanut Butter.
Both were AWESOME!!!
Fried Milk:  This amazing dessert with a mixture of dark chocolate, milk custard covered in corn flake batter and fried all served in a nice dainty dish was quite wonderful and though artisan in nature, would appeal to any mainstream dessert fan.   Grade: A


Peanut Butter: This concoction of apple miso sorbet served on a peanut mousse with threaded peanut brittle and golden raisins is a very diverse mixture of flavours that homogenize together quite well.  I'd have loved a larger portion of this wonderful dessert.   Grade: A+

Overall those of us that came out had a wonderful time and I will be back again soon for a proper dinner visit.  It was very nice to also have a Tweet-up with other local foodies and I give major props to the promotions company for putting together a great mix of bloggers, mainstream media and other guests for a lovely evening.  

Uchi Houston
904 Westheimer Road (near Montrose)
Houston, TX 77006
(713) 522-4808

And remember:
Eat Happy!!!
Zao an, Y'all!!!

7 comments:

osushi japanes restaurant said...

Out of a hectic schedule lifestyle, the moment we want to relax than a best restaurant can be a smart option where we can have wonderful food like a art creation of the chef and can increase our social life too. so thank you very much for everything.......
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Albert said...

Great chatting with you last night, Hank! And thank you for the kind words.

Professor Hank said...

Albert:

Thanks much! It was a great cocktail party with much of the Houston Food Bloggerati. Hope to have another one soon!

Hank

john said...

Uchi is really looking excellent place to enjoy delicious food. I will surely visit Uchi when I will go to Houston. Any idea regarding its opening hours?

Professor Hank said...

John:

Per their website:

713.522.4808
Sun-Th 5-10
Fri-Sat 5-11

Reservations should be made.

Thanks,

Hank

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