Alison Cook’s top 100: No. 7 Uchi Houston

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7. Uchi Houston
This Austin import from celebrated chef Tyson Cole has turned the old Felix restaurant into a handsome, if somber, version of a Japanese farmhouse. It’s not just some clone of Cole’s Austin restaurants, although eclectic Japanese signature dishes like the elegant machi cure (smoked baby yellowtail combined with translucent yucca crisps, macron almonds and garlic brittle) are present and accounted for on the menu — a long and somewhat daunting document with many moving parts. Go for the separately printed daily specials list, which may yield shimmeringly pure negiri sushi of renkodai (yellow sea bream) or kinmedai (goldeneye snapper), or such hot dishes as Sugi Gama, a parchment origami package of cobia steamed on the grill with black tree and oyster mushrooms, tiny jolts of Thai chile, golden raisin and kumquat. (The ingenious use of fruit is something of a Cole signature move.) Like the menus, these creations tend to have a lot of moving parts. When they all mesh, the effect is exhilarating. The wine list is beautifully suited to the food, desserts by Houston native Philip Speer fascinate, the service tries hard to please, and some early kitchen wobbles have smoothed out. If the restaurant continues on its present course, it will challenge our homegrown best.
Cuisine: Japanese
Entree price range: $$-$$$
Where: 904 Westheimer
Phone: 713-522-4808


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