I Can Eat 50 Eggs: Uchiko

In honor of Paul Newman and “Cool Hand Luke,” I’ll review 50 days of eggs from 50 different restaurants.
Day 11: Uchiko
4200 N. Lmar Blvd. 916-4808, www.uchiaustin.com/uchiko.
Hours: 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 5 to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 01.11.12
Uchiko’s Paul Qui continues his run on “Top Chef” tonight at 9 p.m. on Bravo, and while the rest of the country watches him cook brisket and wage Restaurant Wars, we can taste his actual food on North Lamar. Take for example the Brussels sprouts he made for Episode 5. Uchiko cooks them until the outside leaves are crisp and almost black, then tosses them with sweet fish caramel and a splash of lemon and chile. It’s an explosive $6 bowl, and while the mighty sprout’s star is on the rise at so many places, few do it better.
But this is about eggs, and so we turn to the Bacon and Eggs makimono roll ($10). It’s as if “Modernist Cuisine” author Nathan Mhyrvold stepped out of last week’s episode and challenged Qui to put a progressive spin on breakfast. The base is a roll of rice filled with fried Kurobuta pork belly and cut into quarters. The pork lays down a mild, tender base for the sharp-edged breading and sticky rice with just enough sesame seeds to pop in for flavor cameos.
Like so much of Uchiko’s earth-centric decor, the dish arrives on a stout wooden board. It’s dotted like a painter’s palette of elements, and the person who brought the dish encouraged me to get a little bit of each in every bite. It makes for a nice tableaux even if the grab-and-drag of deconstructionist food is getting old for me, a sentiment reinforced by the fact that the runner misidentified two of the three elements and confused my senses for a few bites before I sorted things out. I’d rather trust Uchiko to compose the bite for me.
The wooden palette holds three flavor components: white dots of hot Firemans #4 beer mustard, a swatch of lemon miso gel and a gooey amber circle of egg yolk sprinkled with dusty red espelette pepper. The waiter, who corrected the impression left by the runner, said the egg yolk is cooked sous vide to a state between liquid and solid. Despite its low flavor profile, it’s the most compelling of the three, a rich complement to the fried pork belly, something to lend the dish density and gravitas. The mustard and miso are fine for the camera, but they’re minor players at best, lending stage whispers of spice and acidity. I imagine judges Colicchio, Simmons and Lakshmi would want bolder flavors to back up the modernist construct. I would, too.
Programming notes: During Sake Social hours every day from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the Bacon and Eggs roll is just $6, and the Brussels sprouts are $3. Add a generous glass of unfiltered cold sake for $3, served overflowing in a little wooden box for hospitality’s sake. Also, Uchi and Uchiko are hosting viewing parties during the “Top Chef” broadcasts.


(Paul Qui photo from BravoTV.com. Uchiko photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
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