6/19/2013 02:50:00 PM

Ask the Austin Zagat Blog: What's the Difference Between Uchi and Uchiko?

The sushi bar at Uchi
Eating out in our fair city raises all sorts of burning questions. Is it okay to take a date to a food trailer? Yay or nay on cargo shorts at Uchiko? Then there are the more general questions we’ve always wondered but been too afraid to ask. Are you allowed to eat garnish? Who pays for that extra appetizer? 

That’s where the Austin Zagat blog comes in. Ask us anything your heart desires in the comments section below, and we'll give you our honest opinion.  

This week a reader asked us, What’s the difference between Uchi and Uchiko? 

While the two Japanese restaurants from chef Tyson Cole and pastry chef Philiip Speer are often seen as interchangeable, that’s far from the case. South Lamar’s Uchi was the first to open, and the red-walled, chic hot spot quickly put our city on the map for innovative dining. It isn’t all about sushi there, but Uchi is a more traditional restaurant, with an extensive sushi bar and creative cold and hot tastings, as well as savory-forward desserts from Speer.

A few years later, Uchiko opened, the “little brother” to Uchi that those in the know affectionately call “ko.” Described as “Japanese farmhouse dining,” it takes those creative small plates to a new level, with a slightly smaller sushi bar and more tasting bites of fusion sea and land food that delight and challenge even the most sophisticated of palates, as do the desserts. For quite a while chef Paul Qui was the head chef at Uchiko and brought the flavors and textures he loved to the restaurant (ahem, Brussels sprouts). Though he has since moved on (his much-anticipated restaurant Qui opens tomorrow!), Uchiko still feels his influence.

“If Uchi is the somewhat traditional mother,” Speer told us, “then Uchiko is the rambunctious child.” The chefs have more freedom with flavors and technique at Uchiko, which in turn means the dishes boast bolder influences. “At Uchi we had all these cooks and chefs who were so talented,” Speer continued, “and we wanted to continue to foster talent and create another restaurant. So we opened Uchiko.”

If you’re looking for a reservation, Uchiko is the place for you, since the space is 30% bigger, takes reservations, includes a private dining room and can seat large parties. However, Uchiko is hardly the younger brother in terms of pricing: both places are special occasion restaurants. But it’s still Austin, so look out for plenty of people in their cargo shorts and T-shirts.

Have a restaurant query you need answered? Ask us below in the comments section.


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