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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Engagement Anniversary at Uchi

July 4th was our first (and last) engagement anniversary. By this time next year, we will already be married! Gotta do it big for this eh? I made a reservation for the new Uchi in Dallas. I've always wanted to go to the one in Austin but never made it.

I also heard that their happy hour is pretty good and it's for the entire restaurant, not just at the bar. I love that. Makes it easier instead of having to fight for a space. So I made our reservation for 5PM, right as they opened for dinner service. This way we can take advantage of the Sake Social (Happy Hour 5-6:30PM daily).

Uchi - Dallas
2817 Maple Ave.
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 855-5454
Price: $$$$$+

We arrived 10 minutes before 5PM. We were the 2nd group to show up. The first couple were waiting by the front door. They haven't even opened up the restaurant yet. Within the next 5 minutes, more and more cars pulled up and in the blink of an eye, there was a long line waiting at the front door already. A waitress came by with little sushi rolls for all the people waiting in line. That was a nice little treat.

At 5PM, the doors open and we all filed in to check in with the hostess. We were immediately seated (obviously). The decor is modern and sophisticated but felt warm with the wood paneling on the walls and the tables. I really liked the decor. For our party of 2, they gave us a table for 4, so that was nice to have the extra space. I also said it was our anniversary when I made the reservation so from the hostess, to our waiter who sat us, to the waiter who took our orders, all wished us a happy anniversary. That was really thoughtful. :)

Our waiter brought us some water and gave us the rundown of how things operated. Their dishes are more tapas style... smaller plates, meant for sharing. And we can order as we go but just not order one dish at a time since that tends to slow down the kitchen. Makes sense. So we decided to do it in rounds.

I had a big list of things to try. hehe. So we started with the Sake Social menu. The portions are smaller but they are from the regular menu so you can try it before paying the full price.

Koshu Hot Sake $3~ I don't like sake, but I drank a small cup. For $3, it was a really good amount. Their sake bottle is bigger than some other Japanese restaurants.

Machi Cure (smoked baby yellowtail, yucca crisp, marcona almond) $6~ 
This was different than what I expected. But good. It was like a yellowtail nacho. But with yucca. The yucca was sliced super thin and fried. The yellowtail was super fresh. I liked all the elements together in one bite. There was about 4 yucca pieces in this dish. Small portions for sure!

Yokai Berry (salmon, dinosaur kale, asian pear, blueberry, yuzu) $6~ 
I was interested about this one. When everything's eaten in one bite, it's pretty good, but on their own, it's quite underwhelming. The salmon is super fresh which was great. But eh, I was bored. I didn't get much flavor from it all.

Walu Walu (oak grilled escolar, candied citrus, yuzupon, myoga) $8~ 
This seemed to be a popular dish from all the people that have already been to Uchi. I wasn't nearly as impressed with it. The fish was cooked ok. Could've been more tender. I loved the candied citrus on top though, an interesting flavor combination. The yuzupon sauce on the bottom, however, was way too sour for me. If it hadn't been for the candied citrus, it was way too acidic. My fiance liked it better than I did.

Bacon Otoshi (pork belly, kimchi, onion, jalapeno) $6~ 
Yum! Thick chunks of pork belly. And I loved the texture with the thin rice chips or whatever it was. The Korean flavors definitely came through on this one. Bold. A mixture of tangy and salty and spicy. I liked it a lot.

Brussels Sprouts (crispy brussels sprouts, lemon chili) $7~ 
This was the only item in round 1 that's not on the happy hour menu. But it's brussels sprouts, so we must get it. Plus I heard great things about it. The waiter also said it's the best.. and he doesn't even like brussels sprouts! Well that just totally hyped it up. And of course, it didn't meet my expectations. It was really delicious, don't get me wrong. But I've had my fair share of brussels sprouts and this is not the best. haha. It definitely had a great char on it. But flavors weren't mind blowing. One of the best ones we've had is still the late Village Kitchen in Highland Park Village that closed down mid 2014. :( Sadness. I miss it.

We're ready for Round 2! Since the portions from the first round was small, we went all out for the next one... looking back... probably not the best idea, since these are now all from the regular menu. haha.

Kabocha Tempura (japanese pumpkin) 2pcs. $2.50~ 
Expensive for 2 pieces of tempura, but really yum! It made my top 5 list for the night. The kabocha was perfectly tender, the tempura was light and crispy, and the seasoning was spot on. Reminded me of something I had in Japan.

Karaage (fried marinated chicken, sweet chili, fish caramel, seasonal pickle) $10~ 
This was highly recommended by the waiter. We were skeptical... he said they won some award with this recipe or something. But why not? It was sooo yummy! The chicken was sooo juicy. Fried really well and that sauce was delicious. Korean flavors... tangy and a little sweet and spicy. It's in my top 5 as well. I didn't care for the pickles though. My fiance ate all of them.

Nabe (duck, mushroom, chili) $24~ 
I heard really good things about this dish so I wanted to try it. It comes in a clay dish and so the rice gets crispy. Love that! The dish was served with the egg yolk on top. I wasn't fast enough to get a picture before the waitress mixed it up for us. Then she told us to let it sit for 5 minutes or so to get the rice crisp up. It smelled really good. So... I don't think 5 minutes is enough for the rice to crisp so we left it in longer after I tried a bite. Everything was good except there's a really sour taste in there. I thought it was the sauce she poured in before she mixed everything so I just continued eating. Later, my fiance realized that a certain mushroom in there... the one that looks like a giant enoki mushroom, was the culprit. I tried one... yes! OMG it was so sour. Not sure if that's how they marinated it, or it was bad...? But I picked all of them out and then the dish was great. At first it was a little underwhelming, but with each bite, the more and more I liked it. So at the end, it still made my top 5... MINUS the super sour mushrooms!

Oh... during the meal, they came and gave us some scallops, compliments of the kitchen. Yay! The scallops were cooked to perfection. So tender. I loved the combo with the sauce and mini potato chips.  

Roasted Beets (skyr yogurt, bitter greens, local honey) $8~ 
Super fun and colorful dish. The beets are prepped 3 ways. I don't remember it all, but one was "brioche", which I thought I misheard. But it was basically like a beet crouton. Crunchy and crumbly. Wasn't my favorite. The other 2 preps were fantastic though. There was one that just kind of melted in your mouth. Top 5. Yup!

Foie Nigiri (seared foie gras) $9.50~ per piece. 
This was the last thing we ordered. We were hesitant to since it's $10 a piece. A PIECE!!! Whoa. But I've heard rave reviews and neither of us had ever had a really good piece of foie. I've mostly had it as a mousse and never saw the hype behind it all. Plus it was our anniversary. Go big right? So we each got one. The waitress said usually nigiri is inserted right side up when you eat it. But for this, we should turn it upside down so the foie touches our tongue first. It's a little tricky... the rice started falling apart when we did that. So I chucked it into my mouth. I immediately put my hand to my mouth because it was SO GLORIOUS!!! OMG. THIS IS SO GOOD. WHY HAVEN'T I EVER HAD FOIE GRAS LIKE THIS BEFORE?!?! I had this giant grin on my face... and I almost teared up. SERIOUSLY... one of the best bites of my life, to date. I never knew foie gras could be that good. I'm a believer now! It was just so perfectly buttery, literally melted in your mouth. And the combination with the rice texture was PERFECTION. And that sear?? WOW! Get it, just do it, you'll thank me after. Best thing ever, definitely was my number 1.

We were pretty stuffed by now. The rice and chicken sure filled us up. So we were thinking we were only going to try 1 dessert. However, we were curious about another and the waiter basically talked us into trying it as well. :P

Fried Milk (chocolate milk, toasted milk, iced milk sherbert) $9~ 
We knew we wanted this one. Quite interesting... especially the iced milk sherbert, it was so light! But you can still taste the milk. My favorite was the milk chocolate mousse/bar thing on the bottom. So freaking silky. And I liked the texture from the corn flake bits or whatever it was. The fried milk is on the left side, and it's actually like a custard (and you can see the vanilla bean specks in it) and the dough on the outside. That was my fiance's favorite part but for me, I could've done without it. The chocolate bar was my fav.

Lime Cream (puffed rice, seasonal fruit, herbs) $9~ 
The waiter said the cream on the bottom is standard but the fruit/flavors on top change frequently, which is kinda cool. So you can try different variations all the time. The seasonal fruit was watermelon. So they had these Dippin Dots type frozen watermelon balls. There's also compressed watermelon in salt. It was such a cool looking dish. It's like a terrarium! Almost not sure if we wanted to eat it or grow it. haha. But uber interesting!!! So many textures and flavors. I particularly liked the puffed rice that was on the bottom. Added that crunch and the compressed watermelon added a savoriness. I've never had anything like this before. Be adventurous and try this at least once. I can guarantee 100% that it won't taste like anything you THINK it might taste like. It made my honorary top 5 for the night.

It was a great meal. I was a little surprised by how I felt overall. I had the expectation that everything was going to be just absolutely amazing. And while everything was fresh and cooked well, I wasn't super excited by most of it. The foie gras was the only thing that was MIND BLOWING. So I'm not sure if I will return. If anything I'll just order 5 pieces of foie gras nigiri and call it a day. hahaha. :P And also, all of my top 5 dishes are non-seafood. I had the perception that since this is Japanese, then sushi would be at the forefront. But honestly, most of the beginning fish dishes were not very memorable, albeit tasty. The service was great. I particularly like one waitress (we had several serve us), because she would explain the dish but also tell us why SHE likes it, I thought that was a nice personal touch. All in all, the bill came out to be around $150 after tax and tip. Wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. I think going for the social hour helped a lot. And we were stuffed!

I still remember the flavors and my reaction when I put the foie gras in my mouth. I think I'll go back just to have it again. haha. If I was just rating this one dish... it would be a 10 out of 5 cookies. :P

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