The Japanese have long had a term for a "fifth taste" - an add-on to the four basic tastes Americans know: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.
That fifth taste is called "umami," and it's a bit hard to describe. It is usually defined as a meaty, savory, fundamentally satisfying taste. I like to use it as the French might when describing that "je ne sais quoi" quality about a particularly memorable dish.
And that brings me to my review: there is no better way to describe Uchi's hamachi cure other than calling it an umami-bomb. In this dish, Chef Tyson Cole piles on ingredients naturally rich in umami, starting with baby yellow tail that has been smoked (over ice, our knowledgeable waiter informed us) with sugar-cured maple wood. That sweet-savory flavor infuses the velvety-soft fish.
Enhancing the mouth feel are crunchy yucca crisps ("I've made a resolution to abandon potato chips in '08, and only eat Yucca crisps," our same bubbly waiter informed us).
Bits of crunchy garlic brittle act as a counterpoint to paper-thin slices of sweet Asian pear that are layered throughout.
Finally, in this treasure trove of a bowl, you will stumble upon salty Spanish marconi almonds, and bits of orange salmon roe.
I know it sounds like a lot of competing flavors and textures, but when you pile your bite just right - a small slab of yellowtail, balanced on a yucca chip, with a bit of pear, a marconi almond, and a dusting of salmon roe - the complex taste and tongue-coating sensation it provides...well, that's umami.
I love yellowtail and this is the bomb. Plus we found a heart in our dish! The taste of pear, almond and yellowtail on the yucca chip is melt-in-your-mouth amazing! If you ever go to Uchi, I recommend what I did. Tell the waiter to bring his/her picks and you'll let them know when you're 75% full.