One of the few American sushi masters, James Beard Award-winning Chef and Owner Tyson Cole is a passionate student of the Japanese tradition, a tradition he’s introduced throughout Austin, Dallas, Houston, Denver, and Miami with Uchi, Uchiko and Uchibā. In 2018, Aaron Franklin, of Franklin Barbecue and Tyson Cole, merged their two loves of Asian and Texas cuisine together to create acclaimed Asian smokehouse, Loro. Both the Uchi and Loro concepts are set for significant coast-to-coast expansion over the next few years. So the Texas Lifestyle Team decided to try them all out recently and let you know what delectable treats the rest of the country has been missing.
Uchi (Locations in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Miami)
Uchi has been a staple in Austin since 2003, nestled in the trees of the happening street of South Lamar. Upon entering the dimly-lit, red wallpapered restaurant, the bustling noise of the ever-busy joint enters your ears and aromas of fresh and delicious food fill your nose.
The bungalow style of this location makes you feel right at home, as “uchi” literally means home, and the speedy service makes you feel like you’re fine-dining, which here, you certainly are.
One of the few American sushi masters, aforementioned James Beard Award-winning Chef and Owner Tyson Cole is a passionate student of the Japanese tradition. Having trained for more than 10 years in Tokyo, New York, and Austin under two different sushi masters, he continues his path of study and experimentation each day at the restaurants in the Hai Hospitality family.
This training is evident in the chef’s tasting menu. We were lucky enough to get a mix of the vegetarian tasting as well as some fresh sushi and seafood options for our menu. The vegetarian fare was impressive, as tomatoes were disguised as fish and eggplant seared deliciously. This is the sushi spot for your next South Austin date night.
Loro (Locations in Austin, Dallas and Houston)
A little further south from Uchi in Austin, you’ll find Loro. This collab is an Asian smokehouse and bar brought to you by James Beard Award winners, Chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue. Combining Texan and Asian influences, the menu highlights smoked meats, sides, craft beer and batch cocktails.
Walking into Loro’s Austin location, you’ll find a comfortable, airy restaurant with a casual, laid-back Austin feel. It’s a place to hang out with friends while sampling and sharing a little bit of everything on the menu. The prices are surprisingly affordable for the quality, so feel free to experiment when choosing from the menu. After ordering your food and drinks at the counter, find a table to eat at either inside or on the covered patio.
We recommend starting with Chicken Karaage with chili aioli . . . it’s popular for a reason! The Sweet Corn Fritters and Crunchy Cabbage Salad with its hint of fresh citrus are also tasty starters. For the meats, you can’t go wrong with the Smoked Prime Bavette or Smoked Beef Brisket. We shared both items with sides of coconut scented rice and crispy potatoes. To round out the meal, we split the Peach Yuzu Cobbler and the Chocolate Chip Cookie with salted toffee. The bar menu has a fun selection of batch cocktails, boozy slushees, make-your-own high balls and sake, as well as craft draft beer and wine selections.
We’re adding this to our list of fave Austin restaurants!
Uchibā (Location in Dallas)
If you’re looking for the intimacy of a special date night spot, mixed with a laid-back vibe, then Uchibā Dallas is the perfect place for two. Sitting right on top of Uchi, you’re transported to Chef Cole’s interpretation of the Japanese Izakayas for the average Texan venturing the streets of Maple Avenue.
Izakaya translated from Kanji to English means “stay-drink-place,” and this is a pub-like place in Japan where goers can unwind after a long, stressful week. It’s a bit informal, with a wide variety of foods to prepare for the post-alcohol munchies that are soon to come once the drinks start flowing. And when it comes to the drinks at Uchibā, the inspiration is apparent!
After you’re done walking up the stairs, the bar is practically calling your name, as it’s the first thing you see upon entering. Flipping the menu over to the drink side could be overwhelming, with countless choices to choose from. If you’re dining during Happy Hour at 5-6:30 p.m., then this just means it’s time to get your drink on and try as many as you can.
To taste the Uchibā flare, we recommend starting with a cocktail, like with the sweetness of a “hachi no hiza”, or a “verdant sour“ (which tastes just like lemonade). The appeal is in their simpleness, with each cocktail typically being made with 3-4 ingredients. Don’t let the simplicity fool you; these drinks pack quite the punch!
Uchiko (Locations in Austin and Houston)
Uchiko, which means “Child of Uchi,” is the fiery counterpoint to Uchi, bringing smoke and char to the fore alongside the fresh and clean flavors that define Uchi. Grilling and live fire are the centerpieces at Uchiko, with rich textures and touches of char and smoke on display throughout the menu. We did not get to eat here this round, but it’s definitely on our list to go!