The service at O’Uchi is gentle and slow. The new restaurant feels worlds away from the former, gossamer fabric-draped Brisbane Street restaurant – Uchi Lounge – where the jazz soundtrack was broken up with shuddering bangs as the building’s dumbwaiter moved between floors.
Here the exterior is sandstone and regal, while the interior is green and homely, with wooden furniture and an earthy brown striped banquette. The look ties into that additional O you'll find in the updated name, indicating the restaurant's organic, chemical and additive-free ethos.
So, to get things started on the right foot, I kick off with the Hi Iced Tea ($10), a simple cocktail made using toasty, organic green tea – hojicha - and Iichiko Shochu. The latter is a popular Japanese distilled spirit (similar to vodka) that, in this case, is distilled from barley by Japan’s best-selling shochu producer. The same spirit is also used in the Hi Apple Kombucha ($12) a more eye-catching affair with a fruit-filled iceblock and a dried apple garnish. As the single-spirit cocktails here are all small and reasonably priced, I threw in a Whisky Gingerella ($11) as well. With a sphere of ice and a fresh ginger floater, this blend of Suntory’s Kakubin Whisky and organic ginger ale, proved the best of the three.
From the chalkboard specials hovering over the bar, you’ll find some appropriate drinking snacks, like Tempura Jewfish and Broccoli ($19). Against a squeeze of lemon, the lightly battered green florets and fish pieces dusted in rosemary salt, make for great appetite appeasing snacks.
Kingfish Carpaccio ($17) glistens under an oily shallot and umeboshi (salty pickled plum) dressing, and eats very well.
Smokey Saba Mackerel ($16) is too dry and bony for me, though it’s lifted slightly when dragged through the blend of soy, koji (yeast) and sesame oil that encircles it.
Vegetarians will find plenty of ways to keep themselves fed on this menu, from stick-to-your ribs Gyoza ($14/6) filled with a thick mix of sticky rice, shiitake and tofu, dipped into a yuzu chilli vinaigrette; to a speared stack of Kale Fritters ($14). With tapioca and chia, the often polarising green is easy to like in these crunchy fritters, interspersed with lumps of brown jelly flavoured with yuzu, ponzu and soy.
We end on another homey vegetarian dish – Sweet Potato Stix ($14). Dragged through a pool of orange teriyaki sauce, these quinoa and sesame seed-crusted lollipops of perfectly cooked sweet potato, are healthy but still sweet enough to count as dessert.
80 Clarence Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9299 3237