Houston is quickly growing out of its status as international cuisine "newcomer" and into its much-deserved status as a "trendsetter" in that same category. With new and innovative restaurants turning up on renewed and restored corners of Houston's oldest and most historical neighborhoods, the international food offerings in Houston are changing the entire experience of Houston for natives and travelers alike.
Few restaurants can be identified as certified "game changers" when it comes to Houston's restaurant scene. Uchi Houston, nestled in the heart of the Montrose neighborhood in the old El Fenix building, is not only on the list, but it has quickly secured its spot at the top.
Having a meal at Uchi is anything but normal. Instead of dinner, Uchi serves up an experience du jour. Houston Japanese and sushi restaurants pride themselves on being a little different than the next. Diners and travelers to Houston take care to compare the top names in Japanese cuisine. But in all fairness, Uchi is in another stratosphere and obliterates the competition.
Uchi is an implant from Austin, where everything is weird and expected to be that way. Upon first glance at the menu, patrons may pick up on some of the "oddities" of the state-capitol fare (i.e. Tempura-fried brie: a sweet/salty dish that should be reserved for dessert, and katsu pork belly - the Japanese take on ham and eggs), but somehow it makes sense. This is especially so after speaking to one of many knowledgeable employees who know just as much about the menu as the chefs themselves.
The small size of the dining room lends itself to lengthy waits, but that gives patrons an opportunity to sip on a unique cocktail from the dark, smoky, and cozy bar, or to sit outside on the stone-laid patio complete with comfortable chairs and heaters for the breezy early spring evenings.
The service at Uchi is second to none. Although the majority of the wait staff look like rugged versions of male models from New York Fashion Week, their helpfulness is equally as appealing. Everyone from the waiters to the food runners are experts in the makeup and flavor of the food.
Speaking of the food, it is a virtual masterpiece. Avoid the tasting menu as you may miss out on more interesting items on the ample-sized menu. Allow the waiter to take your mind on a journey while explaining the menu's ins and outs. Be adventurous and try something from every category. The brussels sprouts are a must, as is the sushi portion of the unagi and anago. Do not miss the hot rock (waygu beef or diver scallops), or if you are more in the mood for a streamlined meal, consider an option from the daily menu which changes frequently. Pray that the scallop dish is on the menu and if so, get ready for the ride of your tastebuds' life
They say the devil is in the details and that certainly rings true for Uchi. What sets this true gem of a restaurant apart from others is its attention to the freshness of the fish and the mingling of Japanese and southern flavors mixed perfectly for a distinct Texas palette.
In all, don't walk to Uchi- RUN. If you cannot get a reservation (which is common), consider arriving around 6:15 pm during the week and enjoy a cocktail and the scenery while preparing your mind and stomach for an experience of a lifetime.