Let’s get straight to the point—this meal does not warrant considerate introduction. Uchu was, without a doubt, the most disappointing and unsatisfying dining experience we have had to date. The meal alone was enough to illicit such a negative response, but the fact that we chose Uchu as our Valentine’s Day dinner and it ended up being such a colossal failure really put us over the edge. Valentine’s Day is one of our favorite date nights of the year—we use it to justify crossing off bucket list restaurants whose price points wouldn’t fly on a normal weekend. With two Michelin stars, a world renowned chef, and notable rave reviews, we figured that the experience at Uchu must be worth the hefty price tag coming in at $330 per person (not including tax, gratuity, or beverages). We also assumed they must have something exciting in store for the special night as is typical of most high caliber restaurants. We could not have been more wrong on either front.
From the time we entered to the time we abruptly left, there was no indication that this evening was different from any other night of the year. No special courses, no rare fish offerings, no tangible menu at all, let alone one that might go as far as to acknowledge the holiday. Of course we could look past this as long as the food itself was special; here is where the real problem started to unfold. Not only were there zero “wow” courses, there were multiple offerings that were far below average and many still that were shockingly inedible. We’ll do our best to explain our evening and what happened to take us from excited and hopeful to spitting out bites of nigiri and ultimately filing a lawsuit following utter apathy and lack of accountability from the restaurant. On Valentine’s Day of all days, we paid $1,200 to be left with a bad taste in our mouths both figuratively and literally.
Omakase frequenters know that rice flavor and quality speak volumes to the quality of the omakase overall. If you’ve read our reviews before, you’re familiar with our measurement of quality—the 3 Ts: Taste, Texture, and Temperature. Uchu’s rice failed in all three categories. The rice was unfathomably under-seasoned, the texture was dreadfully dense, and the temperature was regretfully room-temp. The rice did not taste fresh and was not changed at any time during the service. If this omakase featured only nigiri, we’d have left even sooner.
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very bland place to start. The otsumami courses at Uchu were disjointed, inconsistent, and uninspired. Noticeably missing throughout these courses was flavor or umami of any kind. We started out with a visually appealing dish of scallop, lotus root, white miso, and delicate micro flowers. While it looked fresh and clean, no flavor could really be discerned – we gave a shrug but still looked forward to what was to come. Next up was Hokkaido horsehair crab served in its own shell and covered with a blanket of black truffle. The crab itself was tasty with some bright yuzu for acidity to balance out the earthy truffle, but you eat with your eyes and this dish could definitely have used a face lift. We enjoyed the famous uni sandwich, fresh Hokkaido uni and salty osetra caviar served in between two thin mochi rice crackers adorned with a vibrant purple flower, just as much as we were expecting to. Unfortunately for us, this was the first and only dish we truly enjoyed. The sashimi offering of cold and flavorless red snapper and amberjack was served alongside a dangerous amount of yuzu and wasabi, allowing the diner to compose a bite that could taint their palate for the rest of the meal if they weren't careful. Raw Miazaki wagyu nigiri came next, with fermented miso and shaved truffle. The wagyu was so chewy it physically hurt our jaws and we eventually gave up and chugged some sake to wash it down. The taste was off-putting and absolutely did not leave us wanting more. At this point we really started to get nervous… when was the wow factor going to kick in? We were skeptical about the nigiri but hoped that this was where Chef Ichimura would really shine and that our meal would take a turn for the better. Can you guess what happened next?
Spoiler alert: We were wrong. Again. First of all, the fish had been sliced during the otsumami courses so the sliced fish ended up sitting around for a whole 20 minutes (yes, we counted) before we were served our first bite of nigiri. The kinmedai had a glossy sheen of shoyu but was flavorless, a disappointment right off the bat as this is one of our standard favorites. We didn’t even write any notes on the shima aji it was so “eh”. The sayori (needlefish) was completely overpowered by the use of shiso in between the neta and shari. We actually noticed multiple people taking the fish off of the rice and leaving the rice behind as the pieces progressed. The kuruma ebi was the first bite to be spit out. We could not believe how chewy it was! Kuruma ebi is briefly boiled and immediately chilled so that it maintains its satisfying crunch without becoming chewy — Uchu was clearly having none of this because we could tell it was overcooked just by look and feel. The next offensive bite was the ika (squid); because ika naturally has a fair amount of chew to it, an itamae will often show off their knife skills in scoring or slicing this piece of fish which leads to a more tender bite. We disdainfully deemed this piece “sea bubblegum”. How anybody was able to manage without choking is beyond us. We were still chewing by the time the hotate (scallop) was served, which we thought had to be a safe bet. Alas, my notes for this one say, “honestly just not good omg”. Next was chutoro served in layers—Chef’s signature style. While we liked the layered concept, the fish itself was the fishiest, oiliest chutoro we’ve ever had. We looked at each other with shocked disgust, telepathically sending distress signals. We contemplated leaving but decided to stay for the purpose of our review.
Next was more Hokkaido uni but it was notably different than the uni that came before; this was pale in color and tasted off. Now that even our beloved uni didn’t offer a reprieve, we were really at the end of our rope. The next piece, triple-layered otoro, turned out to be our last. This was the final nail in the coffin, the ewww that put the Ew in Ew-chu. At this point we honestly could stomach no more and agreed to leave the omakase prematurely, something we’ve never done before. Josh stepped aside to speak with somebody about what we were experiencing but there was no manager on duty, no maître d to hear us out. We paid the bill begrudgingly and hurried to the bodega across the street to buy gum and mints to get rid of the fishy taste and oily film that coated our tongues.
We have to break service into two categories—dining service and customer service. The dining service was excellent, on par with what you'd expect from top tier omakase restaurants. The servers were hospitable, moving with graceful efficiency, and our sommelier was highly knowledgeable and informative in guiding us through our sake pairing. The customer service, however, was abysmal. You can read more about our post-Uchu customer service saga here—we were so disappointed that Uchu would not investigate or hold themselves accountable. We started writing our own reviews because of our love and reverence for the art of omakase and wanted so badly to give Uchu the benefit of the doubt here. Upon further reading of past Yelp reviews, we did find a few that matched ours—right down to the spitting out of bites and the conviction that the fish was less than fresh. Many noted their feeling of being “robbed”. So overall, Uchu’s apathetic and pretentious customer service ended up tainting the professionalism of the dining service.
We did not stay for dessert but as that was the only course left, we can’t imagine it would have filled us to the point of satiety. For $1,200 we left very hungry and picked up some much needed pizza on the way home, thanking the Salt Gods with every bite. Still went to sleep with the taste of that chutoro/otoro in our mouths and we wish we were exaggerating.
The atmosphere at Uchu fell flat for us. The bar itself was beautiful and the area behind the bar was aesthetically pleasing and pristinely kept. We noticed beautiful floral arrangements displayed along the walls in the photos of past reviews but there was nothing of the sort the night we were there. The walls and overall design seemed generic and overtly plain, almost like it was a pop-up restaurant that knew they wouldn’t be around long enough to really invest in any details. While Chef Ichimura was charming and pleasant, the overall energy in the room was strange with most diners seeming noticeably bored throughout the night. It truly didn’t seem as if people were enjoying themselves. The vibe was off from the start and never recovered.
If you’ve made it to the end of this review, it goes without saying that we would not recommend dining at Uchu. They’re still closed due to the coronavirus, but when they do reopen, we would suggest staying far, far away from their reservations page.