I think Uchi Lounge is the perfect place for a first date. Now, I've been with Zen for almost 7 years and can't quite remember what first dates are like, but how can an equation which includes awesome sake cocktails, a drool-worthy bar menu and an intimately lit room go wrong? The bar is quirky and the restaurant upstairs is Modern Japanese glam.
The decor is soothing and the peaceful ambiance complements it well. For a tiny lounge tucked behind Oxford Street, I was surprised.
The bar downstairs
Uchi doesn't take bookings on Friday or Saturday nights, but Amanda and I frown when we're advised the restaurant has reached its capacity and soon after the waiter steps away to chat with the boss, and we are offered a table downstairs. They don't normally serve the restaurant menu downstairs so I'm glad he has made an exception.
I ordered the Zen Booster cocktail which was only natural since it held the name of my other half. I'm not a big drinker so thought the mix of passionfruit sake, vodka, cointreau and organic apple and carrot juice was a little harsh. I much preferred Amanda's Crunchy Tiger. The sweetness of the mango juice mixed with passionfruit sake, vodka, cointreau was delicious.
Zen Booster sake cocktail
Crunchy Tiger sake cocktail
While analysing the menu, we were served these complimentary homemade rice cakes (or should I call them crackers?). They were still warm and tasted freshly toasted. I heart the basic flavour of toasted soy sauce on a crisp rice bed.
Complimentary rice cakes
Both Amanda and I are big foodies so don't be astonished by the amount we have ordered and demolished :)
The first dish we had were mussels with chilled wasabi and coriander. These were slightly disappointing as the mussels were over-cooked. But the flavours were nonetheless refreshing. Next were oysters with umeshu (a Japanese liqueur made with ume plums) vinaigrette. The texture of the vinaigrette was jelly-like and totally unexpected!
Chilled wasabi and coriander mussels
Fresh pacific oysters with umeshu vinaigrette
My favourite of the night was the following dish -grilled eggplant with miso and a sprinkle of parmesan. I simply loved the saltiness of the parmesan and miso mixed with gorgeously textured eggplant. However, the serving size only included half an eggplant so a whole would have been a bliss.
Grilled eggplant with miso and parmesan
The specials menu included 2 eye catching dishes which we just had to order. One of them was the shallow-fried soft shell crab wrapped with hijiki, edamame rice and snow peas. Whilst the filling was scrumptious, I was deeply disappointed by the oiliness of the beancurd sheet which encased it.
Shallow-fried soft shell crab wrapped with hijiki, edamame rice and snow pea, served with wasabi mayo
Inside the soft shell crab roll
The other dish we ordered from the specials menu was this yuan-grilled Suzuki jewfish with organic sesame oil and tamari, served with bamboo shoot rice and blanched bok choy. The bamboo rice was the best!
Yuan-grilled Suzuki jewfish with organic sesame oil and tamari, served with bamboo shoot rice and blanched bok choy
Ah, finally, our last main dish of medium rare beef steak with chilled wasabi mash. The mash must've consisted of fresh wasabi -its sharpness was so aromatic. And the accompanying sauce which I can't recall was so luscious, we found ourselves mopping it up with every piece of perfectly seared steak.
Medium rare beef steak with chilled wasabi mash
Dinner ended sweetly with desserts of their signature green tea and cinnamon creme brulee and houjicha (oven-roasted green tea) pannacotta. The crystalised toffee was as it should be -a thin glossy sheet. Cracking it has always been a secret pleasure of mine. The green tea and cinnamon custard beneath was silky smooth. But the pannacotta left me speechless as I continuously devoured spoon after spoon. Its refreshing houjicha essence paired with a light-as-air texture was sublime.
Green tea and cinnamon creme brulee
Houji cha pannacotta
Amanda et moi
The next time you need a quiet bar/restaurant for a date or to catch up with friends, check out Uchi.
15 Brisbane Street, Darlinghurst