Home Video The dish you have to try at this award-winning Japanese restaurant opening in Scottsdale

The dish you have to try at this award-winning Japanese restaurant opening in Scottsdale

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The dish you have to try at this award-winning Japanese restaurant opening in Scottsdale

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The long-awaited outpost of Austin-based, award-winning Japanese restaurant Uchi is finally opening in Old Town Scottsdale on Feb. 1.

Japanese for “home,” Uchi was named after the first location of the restaurant, a red refurbished house in Austin where sushi master Tyson Cole and his team began service in 2003. The restaurant went on to earn a coveted James Beard Award. Twenty years later, Cole and Hai Hospitality are opening his seventh location, the first in Arizona, in the former Bandera building at the corner of Scottsdale Road and First Street.

The building’s western exterior belies a peaceful, modern Japanese interior. The wooden door opens onto a golden wall set behind the hostess desk, and the 207-seat dining room beyond is softened by curved wooden walls and hanging bubble lamps.

While the aesthetics are important, the real draw is the seafood menu, designed by an unlikely sushi master.

How Tyson Cole became a sushi master

Originally from Florida, Cole wasn’t exposed to a lot of international foods until he attended college and, even then, it was only because he needed money to fund his degree.

He took a job at Kyoto, a sushi restaurant in downtown Austin, Texas. Surrounded by staff who were primarily from Japan, he fell in love with the language, cultural aesthetics and the care they put into their art.

“Being a sushi chef is a craft. It’s about the knife and how you cut things and how you feed people the perfect bite,” he said. “It’s taking that craft to every single seat.”

Since he wasn’t Japanese, they told him he couldn’t make sushi. So he moved on to other restaurants where the chefs were more open to teaching him. He ended up at the highly respected Musashino restaurant in Austin, where he worked under chef Takehiko Fuse.

Fuse took Cole to Japan and even taught him to speak Japanese. Cole ended up moving to New York to stage at Bond Street sushi, but then returned to Musashino before setting out to open his own restaurant.

“I had this desire to create something new,” he said. “So I’d go to farmers markets, Asian markets and Whole Foods, and what made the most sense with sashimi was fruit. Just combining the texture and the brightness made so much sense.”

Now, it’s not unusual to see combinations like amberjack and pear or blue fin and pickled apple on Uchi menus.

What’s on Uchi Scottsdale’s menu

The menu at Uchi includes hot and cool tastings like hot rock wagyu beef and hirame usuzukuri made with thinly sliced flounder, candied quinoa and olive oil. Other sections of the menu include sushi and sashimi, yasaimono (vegetables), agemono (tempura) and desserts, like a Japanese cheesecake made with plum sorbet, date marmalade and pumpkin seed granola. Hot and cold tastings range from $14.50 to $26, nigiri and sashimi from $5 to $30, desserts from $13 to $16 and caviar from $45 to $65.

The specials at each Uchi location are different. Some Scottsdale specials include Wagyu Carpaccio, prepared with fried jalapeno, cured egg yolk, nuoc mam and chili oil. Masu crudo is made with ocean trout, Japanese sweet potato and makrut lime leaf. And lamb sirloin is served with roast kabocha puree, cranberry ginger relish and spicy pickled kabocha.

One of Cole’s favorite combinations is tuna with watermelon and fish sauce. But the one dish he hopes every guest will try is the hama chili ($24), made with yellowtail, ponzu, Thai chili and orange supremes.

What’s on the bar menu at Uchi

Cole describes the drinks at Uchi as herbaceous, very seasonally and sake-based. The kara kyuri is made with yuzu, cucumber, Thai chili and sake, and the Japanese 77 is made with elderflower, lemon, sparkling wine and sake. Cocktails range from $13 to $15, while sake, wine and beer are $7 to $45.

How to visit Uchi Scottsdale

Uchi Scottsdale opens on Feb. 1. The daily happy hour runs 4-6 p.m. with half off some of the popular menu items.

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Details: 3821 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale. uchirestaurants.com.

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Reach the reporter at BAnooshahr@azcentral.com. Follow @banooshahr on X, formerly known as Twitter.



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