I don’t usually review cookbooks in this space. I mean, hello, I eat out for a living. But every now and then a cookbook comes along that is such a great read and has such dazzling photography that I can’t put it down. Uchi, the Cookbook is one of those. (Full disclosure: I wrote a blurb for the back cover and I’m a total fan of the two contemporary Japanese restaurants it’s about: Uchi and Uchiko, in Austin.) You can lose yourself in the pictures, which are so luscious and seductive and fantastically detailed you can almost touch and smell the food. (Right now I’m looking at a photo by Rebecca Fondren on page 186 of the dish called kona kanpachi, with pieces of young yellow-tail, skinny slices of fresh green scallion, crowned by a glistening golden egg yolk.) And the story of the restaurant, as told by principal chef-owner Tyson Cole, has all kinds of fun little insider details. He says about mass-market sushi: “Foods have their window for the perfect bite, and with sushi, it’s the second it has been plated. All of the big ‘sushi boats’ you see at other restaurants should be taken out to the ocean and sunk.” Finally, there’s quite a bit about the internal workings of the restaurant, how they come up with the ideas for the dishes, with pictures of Tyson, executive chef Paul Qui, and pastry chef Philip Speer and the whole crew doing what they do. At this point, I’m sure some practical person out there is wondering, well, do the recipes work? Honestly, I have no idea. They seem clear to me. And detailed. But I think some could be a challenge (many amounts are given in weights, not volume, for instance, and if you don’t already know what it means to “brunoise” something, better go take Cooking 101 first). Still, though, you will learn an enormous amount about Japanese cuisine perusing this book. And whatever your level of expertise, it is a wonderful read. You can get it now at most bookstores (list price $39.95) and Amazon ($26.10 and up). The authors are Tyson Cole and Jessica Dupuy. (Photo of sea bream above by Jody Horton from my story on the best new restaurants of last year: “Where To Eat Now,” Texas Monthly, February 2011.)
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