At Tyson Cole's first job making sushi at a restaurant called Kyoto in Austin, he hid in the kitchen so customers wouldn't know that he was American. Now, at his own 18-month-old restaurant, Uchi, also in Austin, the Florida native is the main attraction. Cole, who sliced fish in Tokyo and speaks fluent Japanese, is part of the growing trend of chefs who are pushing Asian-fusion food in an aggressively Western direction. Cole, 33, offers what he calls "user- friendly" sashimi, such as silky bluefin tuna served with a cube of watermelon and drizzled with fish sauce, or citrus-marinated whitefish and salmon with tomatoes, peppers and Thai chiles; in the menu's "hot" section are starters like fried green tomatoes coated in panko (Japanese bread crumbs). These days Cole even has famous groupies: On his last trip to Texas, Food Network celebrity chef Tyler Florence ate at Uchi three nights in a row. DETAILS 801 S. Lamar Blvd.; 512-916-4808.
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