Many restaurants transformed into snowglobes as they ventured outside for dining in the winter. However, summer is the most deserving month when it comes to truly eating outside. A simple sandwich tastes better after exploring the Colorado trails. Picnic baskets decorate Denver parks with fillings spanning all types of charcuterie accouterments. Sometimes it’s as easy as going into the backyard with a grill. However, summer is also the time for adventure and exploring, which is why Uchi brings their upscale aesthetic and creative culinary style to Altius Farms’ outdoor garden – located right behind the restaurant – for a dinner series among the stars.
Uchi – one of Denver’s destination sushi and Japanese oases – is putting yet another twist on a night out for dinner. Their swanky and sleek interior matches each upscale plate carried from the kitchen. By pulling the entire experience outside, it gives a fresh breath for new creations.
The garden series paused during the pandemic – now, its return is the ideal avenue for welcoming the reunion of the community. The intimacy of the dinner and closeness felt by all in attendance was the guiding factor in the creation of this experience. It’s the piece that Uchi’s owner and original chef – Tyson Cole – and current chef de cuisine here in Denver – Lucas Chandler – relish over. A regular restaurant leaves the back of the house isolated and their dishes to be their voice, but with a garden series like this one the worlds intertwine.
Once a month – from June–through September – Uchi’s garden gathers fifty attendees to enjoy a 10-course meal with influence from the greenery growing around them. Each dish has special touches from the fresh harvest collected from the raised beds located right behind the restaurant. They partnered with Altius Farms for the space and the hydroponic plants – which reside in an eye-catching glass attic – that catch bystanders’ glances as they pass. Down to minor details that make a major flavor difference – from the final micro to finish the dish like a dash of salt to the crisp refreshing elements that uplift the entire plate – they have their own soil to thank.
A long wooden table is responsible for housing the majority of the banquet and affirming the desire for a newfound community. Surrounding such are small supplementary metal two tops that grow this circle even larger. Guests sit inches away from the plots that provided elements of their meal. Hanging lights hug the tables close and turn on as the sunset continues to fall.
Each meal begins with a celebratory toast to welcome all that have been able to attend – including the guest of honor chefs that help Chef Chandler construct each course. The first dinner had to include the duo of Cole and Chandler, but from then on Chandler takes the reign to invite local and national names to join him. The most recent dinner on June 8 featured Chef Max Mackissock – known for his expertise among Bar Dough, Morin and Señor Bear. The menu reflected a mix of both chef’s past experience and outlook for the future.
August 5 marks the next garden get-together and Uchi is excited to partner with chef Josh Weissman – a culinarian from a long line of chefs who have worked in acclaimed Austin kitchens and now primarily educates other aspiring chefs via YouTube.
The uniqueness of this dinner continues by being a tasting menu – leaving the trust in both the chefs and the garden. The only difference from the omakase offered inside is that a menu awaits diners at their table to give slight inclinations about what is to come. Then dishes arrive, surprising guests as the menu only highlights a few ingredients being featured.
A floral mural conceals – what appears to be – a mobile storage unit that is actually the night’s kitchen where plate after plate is whisked out of, looking ever so polished. Almost parallel to a magician and his hat, each course brings its own sense of amazement by utilizing different technicals, colors and textures creating just as beautiful of a bounty.
The menus are constantly rotating with the month’s provisions and those managing the kitchen. June’s dinner brought in notes of the east coast threaded through the night. An opening bite of a crab toast resembled the sandwich of Maine – the lobster roll. A battered and fried brioche square could easily have been a brunch offering. Rather, Chef Chandler delicately places pieces of Jonah crab with a yuzu kosho aioli to bind it together. His aioli replaced a lackluster mayo with a citrusy creamy counter to the sweet crab.
Later in the night, the east coast tide reeled in a dish that tastes like an Atlantic treat. The combination of corn and seafood lent itself to chowders and bakes by the sea. Both came through in the corn chawamushi featuring lobster tail. Instead of a thick broth base, an egg custard had the sweet corn flavor allowing tender pieces of poached lobster to sit on top. This simple presentation left room for the rush of flavor to take over.
Even if the menu seemed to have a trend, it was fluid in its identity by showcasing a wealth of what the earth’s farmers have to share. A5 wagyu with all its marbling and vibrant uni couldn’t be left off, each having dishes dedicated to their unique flavor. Tasmanian ocean trout had a red-orange hue that emulated the sunset diners enjoy while spending their dinner outside. Uchi ensured that these small touches cultivated an experience unlike any other with each menu bringing its own to the table.
Awaiting diners sipped a fruit-filled cocktail – balanced by the floral salt rim – as the aperitif. It marked the gateway leading to their paired wines and sakes for the night.
The metropolis of Denver may lay beyond the fenced-in walls, but Uchi’s garden offers a blissful escape. A memorable restaurant brings diners from their tables into the homes of the chefs in the back. The chefs at Uchi step beyond the welcome mat and walk right to the backyard. They invite all to enjoy summer where it’s meant to be – outside.
Tickets cost $150 per person. Patrons purchase them through Eventbrite. Thursday, August 5 and Thursday, September 8 are the final two dates for their summer series. Visit their website for more information.