Oct 27, 2023 - Food and Drink

Uchibā is expanding Austin's Uchi empire

Uchibā's pho wagyu beef dumplings and yuca chips. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

Austin's Uchi opened its casual Japanese restaurant and bar Uchibā earlier this month at 601 W. Second St., and reservations are going fast.

Why it matters: Chef Tyson Cole's Uchi helped put Austin's culinary scene on the national map and, after opening outposts in a handful of other cities, including Miami and Denver, the restaurant is expanding its brand in Austin.

  • Cole opened Uchi 20 years ago, bringing elevated sushi to South Austin.
  • He launched sister restaurant Uchiko in 2010, and the opening of spinoff Uchibā gives the brand an even bigger footprint in the city.
  • Cole has been nominated for a James Beard Award six times and won in the Best Chefs category in 2011.

What's happening: Uchiba, which first opened in Dallas in 2019, serves up Japanese-inspired cuisine, including sushi and some Uchi dishes, but the menu also includes yakitori, buns, bao, dumplings and an expansive drink list.

  • "With Uchibā, we wanted to take that a step further by unifying food with cocktails and spirits," Cole said in a statement earlier this year. "Our 'Perfect Pairs' and the whisky omakase play off this idea with intentional combinations of food, cocktails and the amazing array of Japanese whiskies behind the bar."

Details: On a recent rainy Tuesday, the inside of Uchibā was packed and our patio reservation was briefly scratched because of the weather.

  • The weather cleared by the time we got there, and we were escorted to a table outside.

Yes, but: Opt for a seat inside if you can snag one. The interior is gorgeous — designed by Hai Hospitality's in-house team and Sanders Architecture — and seats at the sushi or cocktail bar give you a great view of the action.

The menu, like Uchi's and Uchiko's, is made up of shareable tastings, and our waiter recommended seven to 10 items to split between two people.

The hama chili at Uchibā. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios
  • We started with yuca chips ($9.50), which come with an edamame jalapeño hummus; the hot fried chicken bun ($9) topped with pickles on a Parker House roll; and the pho wagyu beef dumplings ($16.50). All tasty and just a few bites per person.
  • The star of the show was the hama chili ($22.50) — raw yellowtail on top of oranges in a ponzu sauce and flavored with Thai chili.
  • The spicy tuna makimono ($13) with crispy shallot, Asian pear and charred negi aioli filled us up, although we obviously ordered more nigiri and sashimi, which is just as fresh and delicious as Uchi's and Uchiko's.

To drink: The cocktail menu includes draft drinks and Uchibā's takes on the classics like the Nikko martini ($19) and a citrus Old Fashioned ($17) with Suntory Toki, citrus oleo and yuzu bitters. Plus, there's a signature cocktail menu, low-ABV and nonalcoholic offerings, more than 20 Japanese whiskies, wine and sake.

A subarashi cocktail in the foreground and an apricot boulevardier in the background. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios
  • The apricot boulevardier ($15) — Wild Turkey rye, Giffard apricot, aperol and campari — wasn't too sweet or too bitter. So unique and flavorful.
  • The signature menu includes a subarashi ($17) with Mi Campo reposado, montelobos joven and hibiscus-lime agave. Pretty, pink and easy to sip.

Pro tip: The Perfect Pairs menu combines bites with cocktails, like nama hotate (scallops) and tequila, or watermelon with fig chutney and koji goat cheese paired with Yuho Kimoto sake.

What's next: Cole will continue expanding Uchi's footprint, with plans to open Uchi Los Angeles, Scottsdale and Plano later this year.

  • Uchiko Denver and Miami Beach are expected in 2024.

If you go: Uchibā is open from 4-10pm Sunday-Thursday and 4-11pm Friday-Saturday.

  • Walk-ins are accepted, but you can also make a reservation online.
  • Happy hour runs 4-5:30pm Monday-Friday, featuring cocktail, sake, wine and food specials.
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