One of Houston's premier Japanese restaurants will expand its offerings with a new space. Uchi Houston operator Hai Hospitality announced it has leased the former Southside Espresso space next to the restaurant to create an intimate, 12-seat omakase room.
Other details are light. Uchi's in-house design team will create the space, which is slated to open in late 2022 or early 2023. Specifics about the food and beverage offerings are still pending.
“We have long been considering a tasting room space where we can experiment, collaborate and try new things,” said Hai CEO Tony Montero said in a statement. “When the developer approached us saying they had this space coming available, we decided this could be the space to realize and build upon this early vision.”
Uchi already offers a 10-course omakase on its daily menu, but it can be served to anyone sitting anywhere in the restaurant. The new, still unnamed concept will feature counter seating without visible sushi cases to create a more intimate environment. It will also, presumably, be considerably more expensive than Uchi's current omakase menu.
Intimate tasting menu restaurants are having a moment in Houston. Both Hidden Omakase and Kinokawa already offer similar experiences to what Uchi plans to provide. Two Uchi alums, chefs Luis Mercado and Paolo Justo, have earned raves for their Japanese-inspired Neo private dining concept, including a recent Instagram shout out from superstar pastry chef Jordi Roca. None of which is to suggest that Uchi isn't capable of creating a more premium offering as a companion to its daily service, but it will be interesting to see how the restaurant distinguishes itself in the category.
Developing the omakase concept comes at a busy time for Hai Hospitality. It recently opened Loro, its Asian smokehouse concept, in The Heights. Uchiko, Uchi's more casual sister concept, will open in the Galleria area later this year.