Monday, March 09, 2009

Uchi Bedazzled Part II

So the thing is, the five of us were so drooly and emboldened by Chef Tyson Cole's tiny teaser of an amuse bouche, nobody was about to pull out a camera phone and waste time taking pics. Plates are served family style, and we resembled five greedy ducks at the park, crowding the person throwing the bread crumbs.
Snooze you lose with this crowd.
We ordered appetizers, but before they came, a new waiter appeared with another gratis offering from the chef.

This time it was a plate holding thin wafers of pacific amberjack sashimi in a citrusy glaze, with slim-cut Yukon Gold potato medallions and dotted with tiny herb leaves we could not identify. My sisters don't really go for raw fish, but one look at the visual masterpiece caused them to dive for their share, chopsticks first.
I bit into my slice of fish and the flavor combined with the scent of the bittersweet citrus and the bite of the herbs made a sensation in my sinus passage that felt like a tiny nasal orgasm. I inhaled and I'm pretty sure my eyes rolled back in my head.
I opened my eyes and all heads were slightly tilted back in amazement.
What could we possibly have done to get Chef's attention like this?
I'd been there three or four times before and I'd never seen the maestro, much less had him deliver special dishes to our table.
At any rate, we had pretty much cleaned the plate, and if they served bread we would have used it to sop up the last gleaming droplets of the sauce. Suffice it to say, we left nothing a chopstick could pick up.
So on came the appetizers.

Plate number one was a tempura fried brie with green tea salt, fresh apple slivers and crispy sweet potato wafers. We lurched forward and the plate was shiny clean within 40 seconds.
Plate number two, I ordered.
It was twice-cooked kurobuta pork belly, served in a rich, dark, slightly sweet sauce. Pork belly might sound icky, but what it is boils down to this: picture the best part of bacon, without the fat, only in steak form. So it's chewy, tender, savory and flavorful.
My companions and I went wild, tearing it into chunks with our bare chopsticks. This time we used the accompanying apple wafers like tiny dustpans to scoop up the remaining sauce. My middle sister carelessly left a speck of pork on her plate, which I snatched with my chopsticks faster than a seagull on a sand crab.
Once we had consumed those two plates, we started to get restless awaiting the seasonal vegetable tempura with ten-tsutu broth. I'd had it before and it's just North of mind-blowing.
Then before we knew it, our regular waiter approached the table holding a little covered clay hotpot. He lifted the lid, and as the heavenly bouquet filled the air, he said, "Chef wanted you to try this."

Our jaws dropped as he described the melange of rice, grilled wagu beef and flecks of exotic vegetables in a broth made from what tasted like the joyful tears of 1,000 angels.
Five ceramic spoons flew in and out of that bowl with reckless disregard for mouth germs or cooties or communal spit. I would have eaten that stew out of one of Amy Winehouse's ballet shoes if need be.
I grasped the waiter's arm and asked him what we'd possibly done to deserve this, and he smiled and said, "Chef could tell you were foodies."*
Once we finished licking that sizzling hot pot clean, the tempura arrived. We really didn't care what we were eating, but by then we were able to slow down long enough to hazard guesses at what each seasonal veggie was. We tasted turnips cut like French fries, sweet potato, Yukon Golds, sweet yellow pepper, Vidalia onion and a few green things that were delicious.
By then it was time to order the entrees, and we planned on dessert, so we just ordered three entrees to split. We whiled away the time drinking Pinot Noir and voting on which bite so far had captivated us most.
Then it happened.
A man appeared to my right and I looked up and there he was, Tyson Cole himself, bearing a tray of gleaming white bream, sliced razor thin atop a thin substrate of lemon basil, atop fluffy white sushi rice, cut on a radical bias.
I grabbed his sleeve, and like a toddler seeing Santa for the first time, I gasped, "It's you!"
He chuckled and started telling us how most people douse sushi in soy and/or wasabi and tended to kill the delicate flavors. He said, "I just like to eat it like this..." and he grabbed the end piece and popped it in his mouth, walking off before we could applaud.
We copied his every move.
I will never again douse my sushi with anything. The bream was velvety and buttery, and the subtle bite of the basil brightened the taste with the perfect top note. The mouth feel and aftertaste was as clean and refreshing as a sip of cool glacier water on a sunny, hot beach.
By then, we were wide-eyed and wondering how life could possibly get any better.

Big Sis told a pal of hers about Chef Tyson treating us so well, and the friend is an Uchi regular. Turns out they seated us at the chef's table, where he puts the people he thinks will enjoy his special attention the most. It also turns out he went up against Japanese Chef Masaharu Morimoto on The Food Network's "Iron Chef," and he lost, but not by much.
Clearly, that show is rigged.

(to be continued)


Distributorcap said...

this all sounds very socialist to me



Anonymous said...

I have a pal who will be coming to your city soon. Any advise on must visit restaurants? She is staying in the River Walk area. Thanks.

Lulu Maude said...

Wow-in your next professional incarnation, consider being a restaurant reviewer.

Nice writing!

Karen Zipdrive said...

The Riverwalk area has tons of good restaurants. I like Paisano's for their signature dish "shrimp paesano."
My pal Blanca owns a Mexican place called "Paloma" that serves gourmet Tex Mex.
Otherwise, your friend would be overwhelmed with glee by the food at Le Reve, The Fig Tree, Morton's or Boudro's. If money is an issue, try Dick's Last Retreat or virtually any place in the area because the rents are astronomical and the competition is fierce, so all the food has to be decent to stay in business.
Brunch at Las Canarias will blow his or her mind.

Dusty said...

Sweet-friggin-Jaysus, I want the tempura battered brie!!!!!

You really missed your calling Karen, you should write a food column for the NYT. ;)

Karen Zipdrive said...

Forget that! What I should do is become a dishwasher for Uchi so I can stand back there and lick all the plates clean.