Top Knot — the casual little sister above upscale sushi restaurant Uchi — never quite hit with Dallas crowds. Its monthly Uncommon Ramen series flooded the restaurant with diners looking to eat noodles from big-name chefs such as Stephan Pyles and Franklin Barbecue's Aaron Franklin, but the restaurant never seemed to nail an identity quite as strongly as Hai Hospitality's other Uchi offshoots, including Uchiko in Austin. Top Knot and Uchi just didn't seem to mesh in the way Hai had hoped they would.
So Hai opted to nix Top Knot, closing it a few weeks ago and reopening the spot Wednesday as Uchiba, a cocktail bar featuring "specialty cocktails focusing on familiar spirits with an Asian flair that are inspired by owner and executive chef Tyson Cole’s recent travels to Japan," according to a press release. Gone is the stunning, brightly colored artwork splashed across the walls; Uchiba's tone is more muted and quiet, a reflection of the more reverent Uchi downstairs.
You'll still find a few popular dishes from Top Knot — tiger cry bao ($7.50), yucca chips with edamame hummus ($9) — but now, you'll also find popular small bites from Uchi, such as the machi cure, a smoked yellowtail snack with marcona almonds ($18); super-straightforward and familiar sushi rolls that Americans love to eat by the boatload; and skewered meats from a yakitori grill.
In short, Uchiba feels like the waiting room for Uchi, a place to grab cocktails and snacks while waiting for a table to open at the immensely popular upscale sushi restaurant downstairs (which will continue to serve just sake and wine although Uchiba has a full bar). Much like Top Knot, the menu is mostly snack-y in nature, but it's fresh, it's fun and it offers enough to be the destination. With a full sushi bar and yakitori grill, there's plenty to make a meal of.
The drinks, so far, seem much more promising than Top Knot, which never really hit the mark as a cocktail bar. There are ample Japanese whiskeys and Asian-inspired flavors such as lemongrass, Thai basil, ume, lychee and black lime. There's sake, too, and cocktails, such as the Ceremony ($13, served in a tea service), that play with both sake and gin. We dug the Too Much Heaven ($14; Toki Japanese whisky, apricot brandy, pineapple, crème de cacao, lemongrass) and Pink Moon ($15; Ford’s Gin, Ichinokura Ume Shu, Peychaud bitters).
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Uchiba launches an accessible Sunday brunch this weekend with dishes such as hot fried chicken Benedict, baked French toast, and bellinis alongside pork katsu rice bowls and onigiri. Take a peek at the menus below to get a better feel for Uchiba's new vibes.
Uchiba, 2817 Maple Ave. Open 5-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.