Tyson Cole, the James Beard award-winning executive chef and founder of Uchi in Austin, is opening the sixth location of the contemporary Japanese restaurant in West Hollywood on Thursday, December 7. The chef thinks that the sushi in Los Angeles is arguably the best in the country and is confident that the latest Uchi will serve “the best sushi anywhere.”
The restaurant’s menu is comprised of nearly 30 prepared dishes, 10 of which are listed as daily specials, that run the gamut from barbecued quail with pine nuts to Australian wagyu with oxtail dashi and miso, and oak-grilled escolar with candied citrus and ponzu. There’s also a complete sushi and sashimi list, plus options for omakase. While there are plenty of restaurants in the area that can prepare a similar globally influenced menu undergirded by an izakaya-style grill, Cole touts one major difference: seasonality. He and chef de cuisine Joel Hammond will use an ever-changing array of produce and seafood sourced from the Santa Monica farmers market and Tokyo’s Toyosu market.
Cole’s growing empire of restaurants under the Hai Hospitality umbrella, which includes Uchi, Uchiko, Uchiba, Oheya, and Loro, leans heavily on the road paved by LA-founded Japanese restaurants like Matsuhisa, Katsuya, and Koi. The chef is quick to credit the influence of Japanese chefs that inspired Uchi. He specifically acknowledges Nobu Matsuhisa and Katsuya Uechi for creating the crowd-pleasing formula of fancy Japanese dinner spots serving traditional sushi and prepared hot dishes in tandem. “I have great respect for the sushi locally, for Nobu Matsuhisa and what he did for all of sushi; I respect him for changing the game and making sushi more accessible for everyone,” says Cole.
Ask Cole what the secret sauce to his company and its success has been and he won’t fixate on the food though. “It’s about the team and culture of hospitality with incredible talent,” he tells Eater. “Our focus is food first, always, but also people. We have some that stay with us for years.” Cole’s staff leaned more Japanese 20 years ago when Uchi first opened, but nowadays he says the team is more diverse. Uchi is paying higher wages for its back-of-house staff to compensate for living costs in Los Angeles. “It’s hard to make a living wage here. We’re trying to figure out how to bridge that gap,” says Cole, who will hire over 100 staffers, most of them locally. Both front-of-house and sushi chefs are eligible for tips.
Uchi’s commitment to hospitality, to giving people that a-ha moment that sushi fans experience at the bar when eating a pristine piece of sushi, is something Cole wants to replicate for every person eating at the restaurant.
Uchi’s laid-back but polished Southern California vibe blends indoor and outdoor elements and seats up to 191. The ORA-designed space features a zen garden-inspired ceiling and wood slabs built from fallen LA street trees. ORA also designed the stunning interiors for the now-closed Auburn on Melrose, Agnes in Pasadena, and Esters Wine Shop in Santa Monica.
Uchi opens December 7 at the ground floor of 9001 Santa Monica Boulevard, Suite 101, West Hollywood, CA, 90069, with hours from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and until 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservations are available here.