Hokki Nuta: thinly sliced surf clam with myoga ginger shoots.
As the chef and owner of the acclaimed Uchi and Uchiko restaurants in Austin, Texas, Tyson Cole is an unlikely sushi expert. First, his restaurants are located in the heart of central Texas, which doesn’t immediately register as the land of octopus and yellowtail. Second, he’s a boyish-looking 40-year-old guy, not a face that patrons expect to be speaking Japanese and wielding razor-sharp knives behind a sushi counter. But Cole is all for breaking traditions, and he does so convincingly. With a modern menu that melds punchy global flavors with traditional Japanese preparations (such as maguro sashimi and goat cheese with cracked pepper, Fuji apple and pumpkinseed oil), Uchi has amassed a local cult following and national recognition: Cole was awarded a coveted Food & Wine “Best New Chef” award in 2005, and earlier this year he received a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest. Cole became obsessed with sushi in his early 20s and dedicated himself to the intricacies of knife dexterity and Japanese cuisine. Today, he’s a busy guy: Uchi: The Cookbook was published earlier this year, and his second Uchi restaurant will open in Houston in December—but the chef slowed down long enough to share his favorite moments of sushi nirvana.
The Locale: Soto, 357 Sixth Avenue, New York City
The Sushi Master: Sotohiro Kosugi
The Draw: Chef Sotohiro Kosugi is a third-generation sushi chef from a small town in northern Japan, and his restaurant, Soto, serves supremely traditional Japanese food (with tuna from Ecuador, amberjack from Hawaii, Toyama shrimp from Japan) and an impressive list of artisanal sakes. “When I took my team to New York City to compete on Iron Chef America in 2007, a friend of mine from Atlanta recommended a sushi place that just opened in NYC, run by a sushi chef who had left Atlanta to test the waters in the big city,” Cole says. “It was an incredible experience, traditional in every facet. After every single course, kimono-clad women cleared every single thing from the table. Each course was like starting over again—pristine.”
A Bite to Remember: “A single bite of fresh sea urchin (uni) on an ice-cold plate with raw baby white prawns, mitsuba (wild Japanese parsley) and a spot of soy—heaven,” Cole says.
Tyson Cole on Sushi Nozawa (Los Angeles)
Tyson Cole on Tojo's (Vancouver)