July 2, 2010

never the same

Do you like sushi?

Before last night I'd never eaten much sushi. I've had a few california rolls in my time, and they were good. I had no quarrel with sushi. We peacefully coexisted, living our separate lives.
That is, until last night.

Last night worlds collided, and there were fireworks and cheers and chopsticks.

I am really bad at using chopsticks. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

But when you eat at a place like Uchiko for dinner, everyone around you seems to know exactly what they are doing. They know the secrets of sushi. They've had a long, satisfying relationship with sushi and chopsticks. While they smoothly moved through their meals, I was dropping gobs of rice and other material on the table. I think I had an entire meal's worth of food in my little bowl of soy sauce.

I chose not to let my clumsiness with the chopsticks get me down. By the end of dinner I was feeling a little more confident in my skills. And it didn't even really matter once I took that first bite of albacore tataki (alba­core tuna, kaffir lime oil, ponzu seared on a hot rock). My mouth was like Are you serious? The flavor was incredible.

It must be said before I go any further, it was a battle just to sit down and eat at Uchiko. Apparently it is the place to be right now. It just opened, but not *officially*, so until July 6th everything on the menu is half price.
They are booked solid through July 6th. So last night Kristin and I were determined to fight for a spot at the bar or the sushi bar. The wait for the sushi bar was 45 minutes, and Kristin was clever enough to nab two seats at the bar (where they serve the full menu!). So we pressed through the packed restaurant and slid into our seats at the bar. The service at the bar was fantastic, so I can only imagine that the wait staff in the dining room is amazing as well. We were helped by two bar tenders that were extremely knowledgeable, and made some wonderful recommendations. Everyone who served us, even the people who delivered our plates to us were kind, professional, helpful, and made me feel like a special guest.

After the tuna and the hot rock (I had so much fun searing my tuna on the hot rock!) we moved on to another amazing dish from the Tastings menu. It was grilled pork belly over two fried rice balls with a garnish of pickled shaved carrots. If I had died and gone to heaven at that moment, I would have been one happy lady.

From there we moved on to the Makimono menu and ordered some sushi rolls. We ordered two rolls, both very different, both deliciously delicious. The first that was brought to us was the toledo (big eye tuna, bitter greens, chorizo, avocado, almond, grilled garlic). The garlic was actually a light, fluffy puree that paired perfectly with the precisely candied almonds. Every ingredient played a part. I couldn't believe how everything was so bursting with different flavors, and how the flavors fused together so delightfully.
Our second sushi roll was, in my opinion, the best part of the meal. We ordered it based on a recommendation from the bar tender, and she was spot on. It tasted so good I wanted to laugh, cry, shout, all at the same time. It was the avofry (coconut fried onisan roll, lemon-miso, soy paper, and a delicate salsa on the side, and maybe some basil? Something green.). The coconut gave it a kick of sweetness and saltiness that was to die for. I really mean it this time. I wanted to find that chef and shake his (or her) hand and thank him (or her) for making my life as I know it a little more wonderful. A lot more.

Does it sound like I have a slightly off-kilter relationship with food?
I kind of really do. It's happened relatively recently. I might partially blame my reading French Women Don't Get Fat. Not everything in the book struck accord (is it accord or a chord? Anyone? Help?), but I liked her emphasis on paying attention to the quality and enjoyment of food. Not simply seeing food as fuel, but seeking out foods and flavors that are to us "life's pleasures."
Uchiko is one of life's pleasures for me.

Did you think I was done?
We ate one more thing.
Dessert, of course.

I have to say I was some what skeptical. Yes, everything so far had been beyond belief, but Fried Milk? Wha?

And then I tasted it. There were a lot of things happening on that plate. Fried milk coated in a crumbly, salty, breading. A light and airy frozen milk sherbet. A rich, chocolate...something. They called it chocolate milk, but it was thick and fudgy and there was a little square of it in the center of the plate that I didn't want to ever end. It was a perfect conclusion to the meal.

Bottom line: if you can, go to Uchiko. It would have been quite a bit more expensive with out the half-off deal. So in the future it will probably only be a place we visit for special occasions. But even if I had to double what I paid last night, it would have been so worth it.
My life is forever changed. There's no going back.

As Humphrey Bogart would say, "Sushi, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

1 comment:

  1. karen, I love the way you describe food. oh man, makes me want to eat...so then, maybe I should dislike it? I don't know. Either way, the flavors and textures all sound incredible and I like this post so much because of that. food is...ahhh. don't know how to describe it. you describe it! now I know you can :)