I've found that the older I get, the less frequently I'm blown away by a good meal. It sometimes makes me sad: I'm only 30 and I've already experienced most of the good food the world has to offer!? Often, it's my own fault: I'm so excited to try a new place, I build it up and up and up in my head and then by the time I finally get to experience it, it doesn't live up to the place in my head. But, come on, it would be absolutely ridiculous if I was really going to claim this as a problem. There is plenty of good food and amazing restaurants out there. I just have to keep going to new places, trying new things, and improving my own cooking. Also, I've been working on lowering my expectations. Not in an insulting way, just ever so slightly so I don't get disappointed. I did this before going to Uncle. I was beyond excited to try the delicious momofuku-esque noodle house (confession: I've never even been to a momofuku, which is kind of absurd given my love of all things noodle and it's role in modern food scene.). A few months ago, we had planned to go to there for dinner, but right before our babysitter arrived, Willa threw up all over me. So.
But finally, right before the holidays, we made it to Uncle. And oh my goodness. I was blown away. So good. Beyond good. I could go back and eat there every day. Seriously.
The vibe was great. The noodle-house decor evoked a Japanese feel but also seemed right at home in LoHi. We sat at a "community table" which was really just a table for six that had one other couple at the other end. A big jar of chopsticks and house-made sriracha sat in the middle. Servers wore no sort of uniform, so it felt like they were just your friends stopping by to ask what kind of noodles they could bring your way. Our gal was super friendly and helpful but not overwhelmingly so.
We started with the brussels sprouts. Those darn mini cabbages. They're so ubiquitous these days but I can't stop myself from ordering them. They're just so, so good. And this was a stunning preparation: nước chấm, fresh herbs, peanuts, and a copious amount of dried shrimp. Piping hot, they didn't last more than a minute at our table.
Deciding which noodle bowl to get was quite the challenge. They all looked very promising. In the end, we opted for the chili mazeman with spicy ground pork, zucchini, crispy shallot, and sichuan pepper, as well as the bibimbap with garlic steak, spicy cucumbers, arugula, soft egg, and gochujang. Rice and noodles. They were both fantastic. The steak was exceptional: well-seasoned and perfectly cooked. But I can never not love spicy ground pork over noodles. There's really nothing more comforting.
Perhaps what I liked most about Uncle was their willingness to put A LOT of dried shrimp on their dishes. I can imagine some restaurants opting to go light on the shrimp so as not to scare away a crowd who probably doesn't consume that many miniature crustaceans on a daily basis. But not Uncle. They were like, BAM. Have some noodles with your dried shrimp. They didn't care how you felt about it, because they knew they were right. The salt and fishy flavor dried shrimp adds is key.
Dearest Uncle, thank you for overwhelming me. Nice work.
(Oh, and also, we saw Joel Coen and Frances McDormand there! They somehow had a reserved table although Uncle doesn't do reservations so that made us realize it was someone important. And then they just sat down and ordered who knows what but undoubtedly enjoyed it. Nothing like a celeb sighting to further validate your restaurant choice, right?)