Uchi's Kalgua Caviar Sushi May Be LA's Most Luxurious Bite

We're big sushi fans over here. It doesn't matter if it's a California roll, two pieces of nigiri sushi, or plain sashimi. If fish, rice, or seaweed are involved, we're all in. So, when we heard that a new sushi restaurant in Los Angeles was putting its own unique twist on the delicacy, we were very excited. And after tasting this special bite, we can't wait to go back. 

Right in the heart of Los Angeles, Uchi West Hollywood takes Japanese cuisine and turns it on its head. With unusual tastings and seasonal omakase, this is the place to go when you're in the mood for sushi but want something a little more unusual than rainbow rolls and unagi. Chef Tyson Cole delivers by having two menus: One that's the core offering complete with signature, mainstay dishes, and a seasonal menu that Cole tells us "changes almost daily based on what's available to us." 

That seasonal menu is where you can find Uchi's newest sushi twist: caviar sushi. Officially called Kaluga gunkan, this $32 piece of sushi replaces the typical slice of fish with a scoop of caviar and then wraps it in seaweed and rice for a bite that's out of this world. A bite that Cole says epitomizes "what Uchi is all about. The amazing stuff you've had before that you can get every time, but the daily stuff too that's fun and exciting." 

Uchi LA uses local ingredients for its non-traditional spin on Japanese cuisine

This is the 6th incarnation of Uchi, and while each restaurant has similar menus, what sets Los Angeles apart is all the local ingredients the chefs plan to use. Uchi already works with several distributors to create some of its classic dishes, but chef Tyson Cole can't wait to see what will come out of the new and interesting ingredients that are specific to Southern California. "It's about being in LA and close to the coast and purveyors here, and what will they provide as well," Cole explains. "We have excellent purveyors already, but the more local we get with Uchi LA, the better we'll get, I'm sure. Better product, better caviars, stuff like that."

A perfect example of that is a dish Cole says his chef de cuisine, Joel Hammond, came up with the night before Cole sat down with us. Hammond made a karaage fried chicken with caviar that Cole says "blew my f***ing mind." Hammond and Cole note that the ability to create that dish is because of the ingredients that are available in Los Angeles. "It's about the availability of amazing products and making combinations to make things delicious, basically," Cole says with a smile.

Chef Tyson Cole uses Kaluga for his caviar sushi

Uchi has several different kinds of caviar on its menu in Los Angeles: smoked trout, Kaluga, royal white sturgeon, and Golden Osetra. But it's the Kaluga that comes served as sushi because it's both delicious and cost-effective. "They're all very different caviars, as far cost goes and quality goes," Tyson Cole explains. "Golden Osetra is obviously the most expensive one, Cole says. "It's also the best one," the chef's smile hints at why he's "hesitant" to use that variety of caviar for the sushi. 

Instead, Cole recommends enjoying the Golden Osetra on its own as part of the caviar set that Uchi has on its menu.  Of course, if you'd like to replace the Kaluga with the Golden Osetra, you only need to ask, and the talented team will make the change. 

Even though Cole and his chefs are willing to make that change, he recommends only indulging in one or two pieces of caviar sushi no matter how amazing you find the bite. "It's like truffles," Cole explains. "It's such a commodity. It's such a thing where you want to appreciate it. You don't want to eat a lot of it at once," the chef continues. In the case of caviar, the chef explains that it's a law of diminishing returns. If you only have a couple of pieces, it's simply going to taste better.

Four different toppings are used to finish off the Kaluga gunkan

Caviar can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways. But more times than not, it's served in a little bowl of ice, with a few potato pancakes or chips and a variety of toppings to add as you like. The team at Uchi wanted to recreate that experience with its Kaluga gunkan sushi. Instead of having several blinis or potato chips and changing up the toppings every time, chef de cuisine Joel Hammond wanted to take the guesswork out of it by using the same toppings included in the Uchi's caviar set. 

Those toppings consist of crème fraîche, lemon zest, and chives, all of which can be found atop the caviar sushi. Tyson Cole tells us that the crème fraîche provides the fat, while the lemon zest brings the acid to contrast with the saltiness of the caviar. Then, Hammond added one more ingredient that doesn't typically come with Uchi's caviar set: crispy shallot. Hammond says the shallot was added for textural reasons, but Hammond and Cole didn't pick these four ingredients just because they were part of Uchi's caviar set. They picked them because they're traditional.