For years, Uchi Lounge was at the forefront of modern Japanese, a radical departure to the ubiquitous sushi and sashimi fast food establishments at the time. Now there are plenty of other innovative modern Japanese restaurants about the place.
But Uchi Lounge has aged particularly well. The grounded earthy, wood decor feels familiar and instantly comfortable. And like any ageing beauty, the lighting is subdued and mysterious, but unmistakeably inviting.
She’s both challenging and stimulating.
Garlic miso camembert on crispy lotus root, this is not fusion, it’s Japanese cuisine evolving and the contrast is stunning, what’s more East than lotus root and is there a better symbol of the West than cheese. Both flavours are subtle but distinctive and they work amazingly well together.
There is of course, a nod to the traditional, there’s nothing I love more than good agedashi tofu and Uchi Lounge doesn’t disappoint.
Char grilled seared tuna with enoki soy mushroom sauce sounds traditional enough, but lurking under underneath is steamed squash and carrot. The fish is well done with slightly burnt outer, while I find this delivers a pleasant surprise, it may not be to everyone’s taste.
The snapper sashimi is bold and minimalist at the same time in that unique Japanese way. Everything is wafer thin, the snapper fresh and tight. The fan of tomato slices is a surprise as is the marinated shallots which holds the most flavour. The dish is subtle but also amazingly intricate – my favourite dish of the evening.
It would be just wrong to enjoy wonderful Japanese and not have sake, but even here we’re challenged with a wonderful array of choice. Downstairs Uchi Lounge is also a wonderful bar and we selected warm sour cherry sake with entree and chilled pear and goji sake with mains. Perfect compliment to the meal, they too offer subtle yet complex flavours, Ms KLui preferred the pear and I fall for the crimson sour cherry.
We also disagreed on our favourite dessert.
Ms KLui’s azuki strawberry rhubarb ice cream was almost perfect in execution and I think both a playful poke and paying respect to the traditional red bean ice cream.
But I’m a sucker for the Fuji apple, ginger and star anise compote served with soy milk ice cream. The ice cream here really hits the spot, not so sweet but strong in bean curd/soy milk aroma – oh so delightfully cheeky and sophisticated.
We shared two pots of tea with dessert, Japanese green tea and the most potent, tangible genmai cha I’ve ever tasted.
Uchi Lounge is that stunning beauty that you think you know so well, but the closer you get to her, the more intriguing and mysterious she becomes… she beguiling, bewitching and before you know it, she makes you fall in love with her again and again.
15 Brisbane St, Surry Hills (Darlo end)
(02) 9261 3524