Austin’s celebrated restaurant Uchi is opening a West Hollywood location next year on the ground floor of the Nine Thousand One building, a brand new mixed-use retail and residential project on Santa Monica Boulevard. Chef Tyson Cole’s contemporary take on Japanese food made a splash when it debuted in 2003 — in a Central Texas city better known for its barbecue and breakfast tacos than Japanese cooking — earning him best chef honors from Food & Wine in 2005 and the James Beard Foundation in 2011. Now, nearly 20 years later, the chef hopes to bring his winning restaurant to Los Angeles.
Known for its fancy yet playful style of fusion cooking, Uchi’s core menu winds through Japanese-inflected cold and hot small plates, sushi, sashimi, and a few omakase options. The LA menu will likely include Uchi’s signature dishes like the “hama chile” (yellowtail sashimi in ponzu) and hot stone-seared wagyu beef. Cole’s previous culinary training included stints at Musashino Sushi Dokoro in Austin and Bond Street in New York City.
Cole credits Angelenos who have dined at Uchi over the years for seeding the idea to open an outlet in LA. Cole writes in an email that he felt like Uchi would be “at home” in Los Angeles after visiting the city and experiencing its culture and “amazing food scene” firsthand. When Uchi West Hollywood opens next year, the ORA-designed dining room will include indoor and outdoor tables to seat 180 diners. “We aim for the space to feel timeless and easy,” writes Oonagh Ryan, founding principal at ORA, in an email. “It will be a space that blurs the boundary between interior and exterior, taking advantage of the weather and beautiful light quality unique to southern California.”
Earlier this year, Veracruz All Natural, another beloved Austin institution, closed its Tex-Mex food truck in Koreatown, although the Vazquez family would ultimately like to have its Hot Taco brand make its way back into Los Angeles. Though it’s too soon to tell how Uchi will fare with locals, culinary legends like Nobu Matsuhisa and Katsuya Uechi have primed Angelenos’ palates with their respective styles of Japanese fusion for nearly four decades. In more recent years, modern Japanese-influenced restaurants like Sushi Roku, Kabuki, and Koi have found dedicated local audiences across the Southland.
If anything, Cole’s past success bringing Uchi to other cities — he currently oversees five Uchi locations in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Denver, and Miami with Hai Hospitality restaurant group — proves that its particular approach to Japanese cooking is highly sought-after. Los Angeles will have its chance to decide when Uchi opens in 2023.