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Uchi in Dallas Set To Open Early, Plus A Chat With Its Houston Chef And Bun B

Tyson Cole (Photography by Brett Buchana)
Tyson Cole (Photography by Brett Buchana)

The Dallas offshoot of the beloved Austin-based Uchi is under construction in Uptown and will begin plating its Japanese cuisine before its target date of late 2014/early 2015.

That information came from the mouth of Director of Culinary Operations Philip Speer, whom I had captive during a conference call yesterday while we waited about four minutes for rapper Bun B to dial in.

More on that shortly, news first: The dining room will be the largest of the three locations, seating a few more than the 200 who can fit inside Austin’s Hyde Park alcove of Uchiko.  The Dallas restaurant, situated at the corner of Maple and Randall near the Stoneleigh Hotel, will have a patio. Speer told me they’re ahead of schedule and already ironing out the menu, the equipment design, and the floor plan. He said no more specifics were available and wouldn’t budge on a more concrete date.

Then Bun dialed in. Now, to get an idea of the fun stuff Speer and Uchi are willing to do, let’s talk about the preview breakfast at Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest this weekend. The UGK founder and Speer teamed with Hell’s Kitchen winner and Houston native Ja’Nel Witt, Dan the Automator, and Bayou City barman Justin Burrow to throw the collaborative event.

Speer and Witt are coming up with the five-course breakfast, which will pair with Burrow’s cocktails, and Dan and Bun’s music. “Mr. B,” as Speer jokingly called him, will perform while about 40 of Uchi’s front-of-house staff plates and serves.

To prepare for last year’s, Bun and Speer plopped down at a table and went through the exhaustive UGK catalogue to find songs that had themes or lyrics that Bun could perform to go along with corresponding courses. Last year’s event seated about 90. This year, there’s room for 200. Dan the Automator, of the Gorillaz and Deltron 3030, is producing a “soundscape”—Bun’s word—while the Port Arthur native is handling the raps. It’s all new.

“We don’t want it to be stale,” he says. “Cuisine is always evolving, art is always evolving, so we thought the structure should reflect the evolution of what we’re trying to create.”

For Speer and Witt’s part, they say they’re focusing on warping traditional breakfast dishes. They didn’t give much away, but think corn tortilla pudding instead of a tortilla. Think chorizo with Asian flavors rather than traditional Spanish.

“Scrambled eggs won’t be scrambled eggs and crispy bacon,” Speer says, “but you’ll think of that.”

In addition to being one of the state’s best restaurants, let’s hope there’ll be room for these sorts of experiments once Uchi settles north up I-45. Look what type of things it gets the perennial man-about-town and presumably sleep deprived Bun B saying: “I have no problem getting my Wayne Newton on with the microphone and walking through the crowd and asking how they’re enjoying their dishes. I can be Engelbert Humperdinck for a few minutes.”

The breakfast looks to be sold out, but head here for tickets to the festival if you’re planning on heading south for the weekend.  Seating begins promptly at 9:30 a.m.