I Had Avoided Uchi in Denver, But I Did Not Mind Trying Them Out During Their Happy Hour

April 15th, 2022, this is a pre-quarantine review, and I just never got around to posting this post. Updated: Feb 15th, 23

One does not remain a bachelor by taking on any commitment which is also why I only partially committed to trying Uchi during their happy hour.

My biggest expense has always been on food, so I have no problem throwing down if I know what to expect because I can not afford a bad meal, or a K-town girl that I literally can not afford for realz.

It has been several years since I tried Uchi (thanks pandemic), and I need to make another visit because what I had the first time did not disappoint, although not necessarily Japanese, they are no slackers regardless of their misguided marketing.

It’s sad that all too many things are marketed under the guise of being Japanese when there are very few Japanese in Colorado. Even more egregious since it is in Five Points which was once a Japanese American neighborhood, especially Lawrence St.
Photo Description: the corner of Uchi with Altius Farms above it which they tout themselves as the urban farm aka green house.
In nihongo (Japanese language), you need to make sure you know the different between oshinko and oshikko and unchi and uchi because Okinawa sue-she didn’t know.

Yea, that is a greenhouse you see above Uchi. It is owned and operated by Altius Farms

The Restaurant Naming Game

Imagine an American restaurant named house (uchi/うち/ いえ), hand fan (uchiwa), wrestler (sumo), drums (taiko), theater (kabuki), or water (mizu). Well, imagine no more because that is how us Americans, especially non-Japanese name Japanese restaurants.

Photo Description: the bar at Uchi which has a large shelf full of alcohol and a white marble top.
I like the interior which feels like every Japanese restaurant owner in Colorado’s aspiration to be like.

How Deep Are the Japanese Roots

I think I might have been the only ethnically Japanese person in the place – When that happens, I feel I should get a free beer, like when I see a Mexican in Taco Bell, we both add a visual endorsement to diners although any Asian in Colorado is often seen as Japanese, so there goes my chances at a free beer.

Photo Description: the chopsticks and napkin at Uchi in Denver.
Uchiwa cuz the name Kaze seemed too silly, -10 points.

If it were Japanese, your hashi/ohashi (chopsticks) would sit on a hashioki (chopstick holder). In the case of Uchi, this is not a solution because this little strip does not provide you with an elevated place to rest your chopsticks when in use. In this case, it just appears to be all presentation?

Photo Description: the menu at Uchi Denver. I'm currently looking at the Happy Hour menu which goes from 5 - 6:30 Daily.
I LOVE their HH pricing, $4 for a Kirin (they get it). My menu also had the complexion of a 16 y/o teen.

Wow, where are they getting their myoga from?? It’s not easy to find, nor is it cheap even in Los Angeles. Regardless where they get it, I love when I see a chef make an effort to use actual Japanese ingredients (+25 points here if I am keeping score).

Photo Description: The negihama at Uchi is about half order at any other place, but it is is cut in half at a diagonal cut. Placed atop a small wooden board with a shoyu saucer dish.
Negihama, $6, the name means green onion (negi) and the type of fish (hamachi).

Solid *fist bump*, another +25 points.

Photo Description: a close up of the negihama.
When it’s good, I don’t mind it all up in my face.

Time for the close-up shot aka money shot.

I have a full list of my top 10 sushi restaurants in Denver listed here.

Along with Orange County and Los Angeles.
Photo Description: the bar to ceiling shelf of alcohol at Uchi. It is filled with glasses, sake, Japanese whisky, Japanese beer, and all sorts of, a variety of all types of liquor.
The liquor shelf is a “tell” about the restaurants knowledge of the cuisine, and I like what I see (Hitachino to Japanese whisky like the Suntory Yamzaki and Nikki Coffey grain, although I will take that bottle of Jameson).

Time for more alcohol, especially at HH prices, +100 points.

Photo Description: this is their strawbery and pork dish with basil and myoga.
Balanced bruuuuh, +25 points.

Ok, this is where things made another turn for the good because I really enjoyed this dish, except do not think it has anything to do with being Japanese. Not like everything has to be, but it is implied throughout the menu although what dishes are supposed to be Japanese? Just the makizushi or a few ingredients here or there?

Photo Description: another shot with a close up of the myoga, strawberry and basil.
It could have worked with myoga and a nori tsukudani, but you have to be Japanese to probably know about those ingredients.

What part of this dish would make it Japanese? The black garlic tahini (Middle Eastern), spicy honey, pork belly, to the currants (btw, isn’t it strawberries and basil), to the pickled shallots? Nothing, but I enjoyed it, and when I saw it, I thought the black ingredient was a nori tsukudani (a seasoned nori paste made with shoyu, that I used to eat on rice as a kid), but naaawwww, “you’re wrong,” it wasn’t.

Photo Description: a close up of the black garlic tahini spread all over the silver metal bowl.
I Jackson Pollock’d it.

A Whole Lot of Implying

The menu uses a lot of Japanese words, but the preparation to ingredients are mostly just random ingredients and flavors, but that does not take away from the place because everything is properly prepared and tasted great.

Photo Description: the beef tartare gunkan egg yolk custard (2-pieces).
Beef tartare gunkan, egg yolk custard, $8

One example of their menu items is their Sasami Yaki to the Suzuki Yaki (btw “yaki” just means grilled), both of these dishes are more on par with being a Thai dish due to the use of coconut milk to cilantro (SE Asian ingredients) – two ingredients not associated with being Japanese.

I could go on and on, but like I said before, I don’t think it matters because I bet it all tastes good, and if they need to market their restaurant as Japanese over being just Asian (Korean, Thai, Chinese, etc.), to get people through their door, have at it brah, culturally appropriate all day, everyday.

Yes, uchiwa mean “fan” although unchi means something totally different (small tweaks can change a meaning).

I Won’t Be “Hitting It and Quitting It”

If you do try fusion, I would say only about 10-15% of the “chefs” out there could do it correctly. The other 85-90% are hacks who just do not have the ability, and I place them in the con”fusion” category. Their inability or lack of understanding of the cuisine is what they end up trying to pass off as fusion.

Uchi implies a Japanese connection, but like most non-Japanese owned/operated businesses, they are a blend of Asian influences (mostly Thai, Korean, and Chinese) under the guise of Japanese cuisine, -250 points.

This is silly because when do you see an Italian restaurant with a bunch of European influences all mashed together from Spanish, French, Russian, to German, all under the guise of being Italian?

In the case of Chef Tyson Cole and his crew in Denver, it is one of the very few restaurants that I think understands flavors. It’s unfortunately all too often that foam, gold flake, foo foo flowers, and over sauced and overdone food is touted as Japanese although, in the case of Uchi, I luckily did not have that initial experience.

Now, keep in mind, I only tried the happy hour menu after several happy hours of alcohol, but everything I had made me only want to try more… whisky and the rest of Uchi’s menu.


2500 Lawrence St
Denver, CO 80205


The Uchi Denver menu



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