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I think Uchi Lounge is the perfect place for a first date. Now, I’ve been with Zen for almost 7 years and can’t quite remember what first dates are like, but how can an equation which includes awesome sake cocktails, a drool-worthy bar menu and an intimately lit room go wrong? The bar is quirky and the restaurant upstairs is Modern Japanese glam.
The decor is soothing and the peaceful ambiance complements it well. For a tiny lounge tucked behind Oxford Street, I was surprised.

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - interior ambience
The bar downstairs

Uchi doesn’t take bookings on Friday or Saturday nights, but Amanda and I frown when we’re advised the restaurant has reached its capacity and soon after the waiter steps away to chat with the boss, and we are offered a table downstairs. They don’t normally serve the restaurant menu downstairs so I’m glad he has made an exception.
I ordered the Zen Booster cocktail which was only natural since it held the name of my other half. I’m not a big drinker so thought the mix of passionfruit sake, vodka, cointreau and organic apple and carrot juice was a little harsh. I much preferred Amanda’s Crunchy Tiger. The sweetness of the mango juice mixed with passionfruit sake, vodka, cointreau was delicious.

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - Zen Booster sake cocktail with passionfruit sake, vodka, cointreau and organic apple and carrot juice
Zen Booster sake cocktail

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - Crunchy Tiger cocktail with passionfruit sake, vodka, cointreau and mango juice
Crunchy Tiger sake cocktail

While analysing the menu, we were served these complimentary homemade rice cakes (or should I call them crackers?). They were still warm and tasted freshly toasted. I heart the basic flavour of toasted soy sauce on a crisp rice bed.

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - complimentary rice cakes
Complimentary rice cakes

Both Amanda and I are big foodies so don’t be astonished by the amount we have ordered and demolished 🙂
The first dish we had were mussels with chilled wasabi and coriander. These were slightly disappointing as the mussels were over-cooked. But the flavours were nonetheless refreshing. Next were oysters with umeshu (a Japanese liqueur made with ume plums) vinaigrette. The texture of the vinaigrette was jelly-like and totally unexpected!

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - starter of chilled wasabi and coriander mussels
Chilled wasabi and coriander mussels

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - fresh pacific oysters with umeshu vinaigrette
Fresh pacific oysters with umeshu vinaigrette

My favourite of the night was the following dish –grilled eggplant with miso and a sprinkle of parmesan. I simply loved the saltiness of the parmesan and miso mixed with gorgeously textured eggplant. However, the serving size only included half an eggplant so a whole would have been a bliss.

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - grilled eggplant with miso and parmesan
Grilled eggplant with miso and parmesan

The specials menu included 2 eye catching dishes which we just had to order. One of them was the shallow-fried soft shell crab wrapped with hijiki, edamame rice and snow peas. Whilst the filling was scrumptious, I was deeply disappointed by the oiliness of the beancurd sheet which encased it.

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - daily special dish of shallow-fried soft shell crab wrapped with hijiki, edamame rice and snow pea, served with wasabi mayo
Shallow-fried soft shell crab wrapped with hijiki, edamame rice and snow pea, served with wasabi mayo

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - inside the soft shell crab roll
Inside the soft shell crab roll

The other dish we ordered from the specials menu was this yuan-grilled Suzuki jewfish with organic sesame oil and tamari, served with bamboo shoot rice and blanched bok choy. The bamboo rice was the best!

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - daily special of yuan-grilled Suzuki jewfish with organic sesame oil and tamari, served with bamboo shoot rice and blanched bok choy
Yuan-grilled Suzuki jewfish with organic sesame oil and tamari, served with bamboo shoot rice and blanched bok choy

Ah, finally, our last main dish of medium rare beef steak with chilled wasabi mash. The mash must’ve consisted of fresh wasabi -its sharpness was so aromatic. And the accompanying sauce which I can’t recall was so luscious, we found ourselves mopping it up with every piece of perfectly seared steak.

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - main dish of medium rare beef steak with chilled wasabi mash
Medium rare beef steak with chilled wasabi mash

Dinner ended sweetly with desserts of their signature green tea and cinnamon creme brulee and houjicha (oven-roasted green tea) pannacotta. The crystalised toffee was as it should be -a thin glossy sheet. Cracking it has always been a secret pleasure of mine. The green tea and cinnamon custard beneath was silky smooth. But the pannacotta left me speechless as I continuously devoured spoon after spoon. Its refreshing houjicha essence paired with a light-as-air texture was sublime.

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - dessert of green tea and cinnamon creme brulee
Green tea and cinnamon creme brulee

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - dessert of houji cha pannacotta
Houji cha pannacotta

Uchi Lounge, Sydney - Amanda Wong and Jennifer Lam
Amanda et moi

The next time you need a quiet bar/restaurant for a date or to catch up with friends, check out Uchi.

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Uchi Lounge on Urbanspoon
Uchi Lounge
15 Brisbane Street, Darlinghurst
www.uchilounge.com.au

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.
  • looks like a cosy place. what would you definitely recommend to try?

  • I’m so glad you went here! Another place I’ve walked past so many times, but never ventured into!

  • It really does look like a good place for a first date! Haha though I’m the same, can’t quite remember what they are like since it’s been so long :S The umeshu vinaigrette with oysters sounds lovely, never seen plum wine used like that

  • I’m a massive fan of Uchi so it’s nice to see a post about it. Sometimes I day dream about the eggplant it’s so good. I did have a laugh at the first date comment too because I’ve had a first date here and it works a charm.

  • I’m a massive fan of Uchi so it’s nice to see a post about it. Sometimes I day dream about the eggplant it’s so good. I did have a laugh at the first date comment too because I’ve had a first date here and it works a charm.

  • Oh my god Jen I can’t believe you finally went! The Eggplant Miso and Medium rare beef steak, Green Tea Creme brulee were my fave and bestsellers even when i worked there. Takashi who is the owner and head chef is multi talented and also exhibits and sells his artworks that adorn the kitsch chic walls, It’s like you walked on the back room of the Bladerunner movie! Nice work cool hunter!