Drumroll, please: Uchi Denver opened on Thursday night. In the midst of many wonderful, locally owned sushi restaurants—we’re talking about you, Sushi Den, Sushi Ronin, and Sushi Sasa—Uchi’s long-awaited arrival is still a pretty big deal, and that’s because Uchi is more than a sushi restaurant.
Sure, James Beard Award winning chef-owner Tyson Cole built his reputation on his sushi skills, sourcing impeccable seafood and expertly presenting it with flair at his flagship Uchi and sister restaurant, Uchiko, in Austin, Texas. (There are also outposts in Houston and Dallas, and Cole owns a few other Texas restaurants, too, all reportedly fantastic.) Cole’s core menu, developed over the past 15 years with input from his team of chefs, contains gems such as the “Hama Chili,” in which hamachi sashimi rests in a pool of spicy ponzu with orange supremes, shiso, and roe, and the lemon-chile roasted Brussels sprouts, which can turn even the most avowed cabbage hater. Vegetarians get their own lengthy menu, and Uchi’s stellar beverage program and “sake social” deals ($6 hand rolls from 5 to 6:30!) are brand stalwarts. Then there’s the specials menu, which highlights seafood brought in daily from the Fukuoka and Tsukiji markets in Japan as well as seasonal dishes created by Cole’s kitchen team.
The Uchi team is Cole’s true secret weapon. “We wanted to take a leap of faith outside of Texas,” Cole says, “and our staff all wanted to go to Denver. It reminds me of Austin, in terms of being a breeding ground for talent and innovation; I can see that happening in Denver right now too.” Cole has brought plenty of talent with him—almost 30 staff were poached from his Texas restaurants to open Uchi in the Mile High City—including chef de cuisine Brandon Brumback and executive pastry chef Ariana Quant.
Brumback isn’t new to Denver: He graduated from Johnson & Wales University, and during school, worked on the opening team at Fruition Restaurant and at Frasca Food and Wine. Nomadic by nature and always looking to learn something new, Brumback has since cooked at the Fat Duck in London, Thomas Keller’s the French Laundry in Yountville, California, and Grace in Chicago, among several Michelin-starred others. But working for Cole has been a dream of Brumback’s since high school, when he played hooky on a road trip from his hometown of Kansas City to Austin to watch a basketball game. After the game, he sat at the Uchi sushi bar and Cole cooked for him. “I was 17 years old, and it was the most wonderful experience,” Brumback says, “I never forgot it.” When he heard of the open position at Uchi Denver, Brumback knew it was a natural fit.
Denver’s pastry game also get a boost with Uchi’s arrival, if Quant’s pedigree and a stunning chocolate-cherry-candied-mushroom dessert at a recent Uchi Denver pop-up are any indication. A Culinary Institute of America grad, she trained under San Francisco’s award-winning pastry chef Emily Luchetti; cooked at Joël Robuchon and L’Atelier De Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas; and has been pastry chef at Uchi and Uchiko since 2016. “She’s a rockstar,” Brumback says.
Uchi Denver has a dream team in place, a sparkling new home at the corners of 25th and Lawrence in Curtis Park, and even a hydroponic greenhouse, Altius Farms, perched on the roof above the restaurant that will provide fresh greens, herbs, and vegetables for Uchi’s seasonal creations. “[Altius Farms] is going to take Uchi Denver to another level,” Cole says.
2500 Lawrence St., 303-444-1922