Uchi Lounge – Japanese satisfies a dairy free diet
June 9, 2010 § 1 Comment
Well I’m on day three and still going strong…my friends questioned my ability to ‘stay off the milk’ as it were, but so far so good. The only problem is the new addiction of vanilla flavoured milk on my cereal – that just can’t be good for you!
Last night NB and I went to Uchi Lounge, a little Japanese restaurant tucked away on Brisbane Street in Surry Hills, which had been highly recommended by one of our friends. I figured that any soy/tofu based week was the perfect opportunity to indulge in some Japanese cuisine.
A night without rain, can you even imagine?! – For those of you not in Sydney it has been raining nearly constantly here for the past month – But just in case the weather planned to change I decided to drive to the restaurant so I can let you know that there is nearby parking, although you may have to drive around for a while to find a spot. (After 7pm the parking meters will only cost about $5 and be sure to check Commonwealth St and some of the little alleys…or Liverpool St at a stretch).
Reviews about this place are mixed, a lot of diners have commented on the dishes being ‘uninspired’, while others think it’s the perfect place to go for a first date (perhaps their idea of a first date is somewhat underwhelming in itself?!). The best reviews have been of the downstairs bar with it’s massive list of Sake, which we didn’t try but maybe that’s the drawcard.
Upstairs in the restaurant there was only one other table occupied, two men finishing up their post-work dinner. It’s always awkward when there are more restaurant staff than diners, for the four of us eating there was also a waitress, a girl behind the bar and two men in the kitchen. We should have all sat down together and relaxed over glasses of Sapporo, on tap.
The lack of diners, which will usually affect the feel of the place, actually didn’t dampen the ambience. The room was dimly lit but not unmanageably dark in the trend of many Sydney restaurants, decorated with the certain minimalism that feels appropriate for Japanese eateries. The chairs were comfortable, another tick, although we kept running out of room on our small table. However the staff weren’t exactly exuding warmth, the one waitress asked if we were ready to order while I was obviously still reading the menu and then tried to take away our plate of gyoza when there was still one left. I later heard her discussing the desserts with the men next to us and, upon asking for her recommendations, said she had only tried one of the dishes and wouldn’t know what the chef would recommend but maybe the apples would be manageable. I hope they would be manageable if they are on the menu.
We started with gyoza and edamame (getting my soy/calcium and vitamin B hit!). The food came out straight away, which is a questionable sign in itself I think, and the gyoza were filled with a fluffed tofu but they were cold on the inside and really had no flavour, we ended up dunking them in bowls of soy sauce. The edamame were also cold, I think taken straight out of the fridge, and again we couldn’t really taste the salt covering.
Mains were much better. We ordered a wagyu and potato casserole (an interesting word to see on a Japanese restaurant, it’s really more a hotpot/steamboat type meal). This was lovely. Really thin strips of melt in your mouth beef with thick slices of potato, although more meat and less spud would have been even better. The broth was extremely drinkable, there’s a certain taste that I’m yet to pinpoint, which takes me back to spending time in Japan, eating Udon at a Samurai theme park in the mountains of Nikko. We also had a beautiful sashimi platter – scallops, tuna, salmon, kingfish – which tasted sliced fresh to serve, not chilled. And yes, that is a giant rock and a giant shell on your plate.
Overall, the presentation gets a tick, the service not so much, and the food goes both ways, it might be the luck of what your order on the night, although I would happily recommend the wagyu and sashimi without feeling that I may jeopardise my reputation as a foodie!
Saying that, I probably wouldn’t go back to this place, it’s not exactly cheap, and while I’m happy to pay for quality I think Uchi Lounge is a little too hit and miss to spend $90.
Back home I had a cup of cocoa (yes made on vanilla soy) and a scoop of So Good Chocolate Bliss (ice cream substitute!). Pretty delicious with new season pears!