Uchi — Austin (5/2016)


Just about everyone raves about Uchi, so I decided to give it a try.  While it is generally a sushi restaurant, it does take a modernist approach to the menu.  Plus, they offer a tasting menu.  I secured a reservation through OpenTable.com for an early evening seat at the sushi counter.

Soon after being seated, I was offered a small starting taste of compressed apple with hibiscus.

Despite the range of the wine selection, I opted out of any alcohol and decided just to have the Dragonwell oolong tea with dinner.

You can order a la carte from the menu or just order a series of sushi and sashimi selections from their listings.  I opted for the tasting menu.  With no printed listing, I would be going with whatever they decided to serve and how much.  I just knew the number of courses that would be served.

They started me off with 4 small oysters.  These were served with Japanese celery and micro sorrel.

For the full write-up, click here.

Otoko — Austin (5/2016)


Otoko is the recently-opened latest restaurant from Paul Qui.  The prior tasting menu counter at his original restaurant no longer offers service, so this is the only tasting menu that is offered now.  The restaurant is located in the South Congress Hotel up some stairs from a courtyard (it’s a little hard to find).  Reservations are prepaid through Tock.com, where you have the option of pre-purchasing a wine or non-alcoholic beverage pairing (you can also decide at the restaurant).  I opted beforehand for the non-alcoholic pairings.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, which up some stairs in the courtyard of the South Congress Hotel, you are brought to the Waterside Bar, which open exclusively to the diners at the time before dinner.  Drinks at the bar are not included in the price paid. I was escorted to my spot at the dining counter about 15 minutes after my scheduled reservation time.

The menu is set in typical kaiseki style with no a la carte options. Seating times are on a staggered basis, with their goal of turning a seat over just once during the evening.

The experience started with jellyfish, served with pickled plum (umeboshi) sauce, cucumber, and fried baby shiitake mushrooms.  It was an interesting combination of textures and flavors to start, with the crunchiness of the mushrooms and the soft-resistance crunch of the jellyfish, along with tartness.

First beverage pairing was a guava and ginger drink.

For the full write-up, click here.

Qui Tasting Menu Counter 2nd Visit


I returned to Qui for the fall season to see how they have progressed since my first visit over the summer.  They use the same reservation system (tock) that was pioneered by Alinea in Chicago.  It was fairly easy to get a reservation in advance.  It is a pre-paid ticketing system, with the option of purchasing the wine pairing in advance as well or to wait until there to decide. They only do the tasting menu on the weekends. For this visit, I dined with a local friend, and we both decided to go with the wine pairing option.

The first small bite starter was the same.  It was the frozen mezcal foam with jamón Ibérico topped with a little sal de gusano.  Next, a squid ink chip, topped with phytoplankton aioli and shiso.

The small bites were concluded first with Marcona almond dashi with compressed rose apples and hyacinth, and then with watermelon sorbet with koji (fermented cooked rice), sakura, togarashi, and green tea oil.

These opening plates provided a variety of tastes, textures and temperatures to wake up the palate.  With these, we were poured some nice 2004 varietal French champagne (label pictured).

For the full write-up, click here.

Qui Tasting Counter — Austin, TX (6/2015)


When planning my trip to Austin, I had originally planned to dine somewhere else on my last evening.  However, at the last minute, I ran across an article about Austin food which mentioned a new offering at Paul Qui’s relatively new restaurant located just east of the Entertainment District.  On the website, I managed to make a reservation for the early seating (reservations are booked using a ticketing system very similar to that used by some restaurants in Chicago where you pre-pay, but this one readily accepts solo diners, if there is room).

The counter seating for the tasting menu is in the same room as the 3 rows of community table seating for the regular restaurant and looks out at the kitchen area.  There were 8 seats, but only four were filled for the early seating.

As soon as I was seated, they served a complimentary apéritif:  Campari, apple juice and white wine, served in a clear glass soda bottle.

For the full write-up, click here.

Barley Swine — Austin, Texas (6/2015)


For a recent trip to Austin, I picked out Barley Swine as one of the places I wanted to try.  They only do a tasting menu presentation, and a friend of mine who lives in Austin would be joining me for the dinner.  They have their own online reservation system, and it was easy enough to make a reservation for the desired date and time.  They gave me a seating choice when making the reservation of sitting at the counter or a table.  I, of course, chose the counter. The restaurant is located a little south of downtown Austin and tucked away unassuming in with other small buildings.

The restaurant is not very big.  Waiting for us with our place settings were the menu summary and the wine list.  They showed selected wine pairing for the meal.  For the wine, we selected a bottle of the 2013 St. Paul GFLL Sauvignon Blanc.

The first dish was a chilled glass with tomato water gel, tomatoes, buttermilk snow, and a little smoked trout roe.  This was a cool few mouthfuls, with the roe providing something firmer to bite into.

For the full write-up, click here.