De austinopoli: a new category and an ichthyophagian surprise

Above: “Maguro sashimi and goat cheese with cracked pepper, Fuji apple and pumpkin seed oil” at Uchi in Austin. If that’s not fusion, then grits ain’t groceries and eggs ain’t poultry…

There’s a new category at Do Bianchi: de austinopoli or on the city of Austin. It appeared for the first time over the weekend, with the “beans don’t burn in the kitchen” post (btw, I swear it wasn’t me who burned the beans: they were burning in Tracie B’s neighbor’s apartment). Austin is my new home (my new desk is arriving this week!) and I’ve already begun posting about our enogastronomic experiences here in Texas. (On Kim’s recommendation, I’ve been reading T. R. Fehrenbach’s Lone Star, a history of Texas, which I find fascinating — the book and the historia.)

Above: “Avo bake, creamy baked tiger shrimp and krab [sic], served in an avocado.” We ordered this dish on the recommendation of my new hair stylist, Felicia. It was a fresh and delicious take on the ubiquitous crab/shrimp casserole you find in Californian “sushi” restaurants.

I’ll confess that I was highly skeptical when so many of my friends (Californians among them) suggested that I take Tracie B to Austin’s top “sushi” destination Uchi. Raw fish in land-locked central Texas? Not exactly in line with the Danny Meyer motto if it grows with it, it goes with it.

What we found was not a “sushi” restaurant per se but a truly delightful and entirely playful “fusion” menu. The restaurant’s signature dish, in particular, “Maguro sashimi and goat cheese” (raw fish and caprine dairy?) seemed to challenge the very tenets of our occidental palates. (In many parts of Italy, for example, the mixture of fish and dairy is considered as taboo as the contact of meat and dairy in kashrut.)

As Franco often points out, rules are rules: I cannot conceal that we both found the confluence of textures to be ethereal (including the delicately unctuous quality of the pumpkin seed oil), the savoriness of the fish an excellent complement to the slightly sweet cheese, and the fattiness of the materia prima utterly decadent.

Rarely do you find waitstaff so knowledgeable (our bartender Scranton was extremely helpful in navigating the unusual menu and negotiating the extensive sake list; he made the long wait at the bar on a Friday night well worth it). We thoroughly enjoyed our experience.

Above: “Tomato katsu, panko-fried green tomatoes.” Need I say more?

In other news…

Who’s Who in America just published these interviews I did with Josh Greene, Eric Asimov, and Lettie Teague (click to read). We had fun with the Q/A and you might be surprised by some of the responses. Buona lettura!


If I don’t love you baby,
grits ain’t groceries,
eggs ain’t poultry,
and Mona Lisa was a man.