Dining Picks

Where to eat in August: Some cheese with your sushi?

Where to eat in August: Some cheese with your sushi?

This month as the heat kicks in, cool off with these amazing eateries just around the corner!

Uchiko

It’s been a few months since the pandemonium of Paul Qui’s Top Chef and James Beard announcements hit the airwaves. And since then the dust has settled a little bit, and Qui’s presence at Uchiko is essentially non-existent. I thought it would be a good idea to check the pulse on the now two-year-old son of Uchi. Is the verve still there? Are chefs Tyson Cole, Philip Speer and Tim Dornan still wowing diners with each new dish that arrives at the table? In a word, yes.

 Every day is a new chapter for the specials at Uchiko, but the artful bites of blissful flavor are etched in your memory long after the daily menus have been thrown in the bin. 

For all the praise this place gets — as well some misplaced and rather inexplicable criticism — you’d think the flow of creativity emanating from the “Ko” kitchen would show signs of fatigue. But in truth, it’s almost as if they’re just getting started. And there’s never a better example of that than dining here with someone else who is experiencing Uchiko (or Uchi) for the first time. The vibrant energy and casual vibe alone are magnetic, but it’s not until a few Japanese beers or perhaps a few glasses of daiginjo sake arrive and you begin to feast that the five-star dining extravaganza has truly begun. 

Permanent menu items such as the hama chili (yellowtail sashimi with Thai chili and orange slices) and the Jar-Jar Duck — a mad scientist experiment presenting duck in a smoke-filled jar — continue to impress. And I love to intersperse a few pieces of palate-cleansing sushi throughout the meal. (The madai with Japanese shiso, sea salt and lemon zest is my absolute favorite.)

But daily specials are the real treat when you see and taste carefully executed items such as fresh mussels with tomato salt powder, compressed shallots, and red curry and Meyer lemon aioli served with one long strip of thinly-sliced potato chip; sweet morsels of lobster with summer squash and togarashi (Japanese chili pepper); or fresh sunchokes with sweet Thai basil and braised salsify beneath a creamy brandade. Of course, every day is a new chapter for the specials at Uchiko, but the artful bites of blissful flavor are etched in your memory long after the daily menus have been thrown in the bin.

Henri’s

As a food writer, I’ve always said that my life would be over if I ever developed an intolerance to dairy products. Cheese would be the hardest thing for me to give up. Especially when there are places like Henri’s around to glorify the world of cheese not only on a simple cheese or charcuterie plate, but in every clever little sandwich or salad they create for lunch and dinner service. 

 This little artisan shop has fast become a tasty stop-in for those waiting in line for a spot at adjacent Barley Swine restaurant, but it’s definitely worth a deliberate visit on its own. 

Everything about the atmosphere of Henri’s is south Austin casual for an outing with friends, or simply for a party of one at the compact bar. This little artisan shop has fast become a tasty stop-in for those waiting in line for a spot at adjacent Barley Swine restaurant, but it’s definitely worth a deliberate visit on its own. 

The wide selection of wines along the far wall give a thoughtful cross-section of the world of wine including items from California, France, Italy and even Lebanon’s famed Chateau Musar. While cheese and charcuterie plates are popular orders — featuring a selection of hand-picked cheeses, country pate, jams and spreads — sandwiches and salads each pay homage to a particular cheese and each are delicious in their own unique way. The roast beef sandwich on onion bread features sharp and bold Rogue River Blue Cheese, while the simple prosciutto, brie and coarse-ground Dijon mustard on a fresh baguette shows depth of flavor in a simple package. Spinach salad with Manchego and strawberries is a fresh seasonal delight as well. 

Swift’s Attic

Nothing is as rewarding as seeing (and tasting) a new restaurant in town gain its sea legs and do its culinary best to make Austin proud. Such is the case with Swift’s Attic. Now with a good five months under its belt, a few of the city’s most promising chefs Mat Clouser, Zach Northcutt and Callie Speer are hitting high notes with just about every menu item they offer.

 Daytime "sammiches" offer a nice range of flavors with the great Bowling Alley burger reigning supreme. 

Evenings at this avant-goth locale are frenzied with great energy and a no-fuss vibe with diners jumping feet-first into the playful menu. But lunch is just as enticing. Smokey shishito peppers with creamy garrotxa cheese sauce are great to nosh on while settling on your remaining courses. Daytime "sammiches" offer a nice range of flavors with the great Bowling Alley burger reigning supreme. Crunchy squid-steak fries with garlic aioli  and charred lemon are a must as is new menu item antelope steak frites with crisp Parmesan fries fresh chimichurri drizzled over slices of well seasoned antelope tenderloin. (Note:  As the menu suggests, the antelope is served very medium rare, which is just fine by me, but be sure to tell your server if you prefer your meat cooked a little more.) 

Austin Photo Set: News_jessica dupuy_aug 2012_swifts attic
Antelope Steak Frites from Swift's Attic Photo by Jessica Dupuy
Austin Photo Set: News_jessica dupuy_aug 2012_uchiko mussels
Mussels dish from Uchiko Photo by Tyson Cole
Austin Photo Set: News_Beth_Henri's cheese shop_april 2012_spread
A small spread from Henri's Photo by Annie Londos