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Uchi Takes Houston

Both high-end and accessible, Uchi moves into Montrose and changes the game.

"In doing what we do — using the best products and having the best waitstaff — that translates into a more expensive restaurant," explained Speer. The emphasis on "best" is found even in the smallest items, such as the sushi rice, because these are the foundations of the restaurant itself. The rice is cooked from scratch every single day, by the same person, in a traditional four-foot-wide wooden bowl with a wooden paddle. As Speer told it, the sushi rice is "an absolutely sacred thing that we spend a lot of time and energy on."

And the high bar set by the food at Uchi is easily cleared by the waitstaff, who offer what is hands-down the best service in the city right now. Getting hired at the restaurant is no small task, either: A server must endure a rigorous four-part interview and a battery of personality tests, then prove their mettle during a four-to-six-week training period before they're even allowed to take a table. If it seems like overkill, it's not. The result is a well-trained and disciplined waitstaff that can anticipate your every move, customize meals to your dining style, give a thoughtful explanation of any dish on the menu and do it all with bright, bubbly smiles.

The staff tends to stick around, too. Seven months after opening, Uchi Houston has retained 80 percent of its original opening crew. "We buy in," said Speer of the spirit endemic to the Uchi staff. "We drink the Kool-Aid." It's vital to the very nature of the place, because Uchi wouldn't be a welcoming, neighborhood restaurant without that staff. And — for all the talk of accessibility — you might not be able to navigate the menu as well, either.
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The machi cure features smoked baby yellowtail, dehydrated yuca, garlic brittle and Marcona almonds.
Troy Fields
The machi cure features smoked baby yellowtail, dehydrated yuca, garlic brittle and Marcona almonds.

Location Info

Map

Uchi

904 Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: Montrose

Underbelly

1100 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > New American

Region: Montrose

The Hay Merchant

1100 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Montrose

Details

Uchi

904 Westheimer, 713-522-4808. Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Brussels sprouts $6

Foie gras nigiri $9

Ham-and-eggs roll $10

Zero sen roll $12

Machi cure $18

Maguro and goat cheese $18

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There are a multitude of ways to tackle the menu at Uchi. You can order à la carte, netting yourself dishes such as machi cure — an Uchi signature dish with smoked baby yellowtail amid crispy bites of dehydrated yuca, garlic brittle and salty Marcona almonds, all of which you can eat happily with your hands — or a ham-and-eggs roll with katsu pork belly and a trompe-l'il painting of a fried egg on the plate itself made with yolk custard.

The three tasting menus that Uchi offers are the best way to start for a newcomer, however. There is the chef's tasting, which — at ten courses — is the most omakase-esque service at the quasi-Japanese restaurant under the stewardship of chef de cuisine Kaz Edwards, another native Houstonian. There is the less hefty six-course signature tasting that allows you to enjoy a selection of Uchi's most requested and most popular dishes. And then there is the server's tasting, in which you allow your well-equipped server to completely customize a menu for you.

This is a very important thing, because the menu at Uchi can be impenetrable for people who aren't versed in the language of high-end, concept-driven restaurants such as Uchi — which, in a city such as ours, is most people. What we are, however, is adventurous and open-minded — and it's these same qualities that drew Tyson Cole to open Uchi in Houston above all other cities.

So indulge that adventurous Houstonian palate and dive into one of the tasting menus. And plan to be there for a few hours as plate after miraculous plate marches across your table, each one gently set down by one of the knowledgeable servers, each of whom has his or her own quirky language to describe the dish in front of you. Make that selection, as I did on my first visit, and your server will first determine your likes and dislikes ("no raw fish," for example, or "easy on the pork"), then guide you through each course with aplomb. In fact, my only complaint with the meal was that each dish wasn't delivered by our server, as I was curious to hear her own definitions of each plate and her own reasoning for choosing it. On the other hand, the "runner" service ensured that we didn't have to wait long between courses, which is — for me, at least — the lesser sin.

At the end of our first dinner, we'd demolished 14 courses between two people (12 savory plates and two desserts), along with four oversize glasses of high-end sake and two beers. The damage? $300 with tax and an extremely generous tip. And in that time, we'd enjoyed dishes made with such stunningly fresh and remarkably rare ingredients — precious, deep-cupped Kusshi oysters and cool, nearly translucent golden seabream over wonderfully room-temperature sushi rice that clung cleanly to itself — and with such talent and precision that it was difficult to argue with a $300 bill after such a feast.

I was lucky enough to get the same server, Jessica, on my return visit during Uchi's happy hour. She remembered every single course that I'd had eight days prior and reminded me with a pleasant, easygoing smile what they were so that I wouldn't have to duplicate them (and with a menu like Uchi's, you don't want to duplicate — you want to be blown away by something new every time). As she had the last time, Jessica started us out with lighter dishes — in this case, uchiviche and nasu nigiri — before moving on to heavier plates.

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3 comments
number9photog
number9photog

@UchiAustin ohh, I would love to try this Uchi

cg713_
cg713_

@BunBTrillOG @HoustonPress @UchiHouston saw that the other day, I want to try it now.

HoustonPress
HoustonPress

@BunBTrillOG @UchiHouston Thanks for the tweet buddy! Did Shannon get you your award?

 
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