Review By: Elizabeth Walle -
The night my girlfriends and I went to chow down at Uncle, we were in need of some comfort. After a blissful weekend of clear spring skies and crisp flapping breezes, 6 inches of snow poured down on Denver this Monday, rewinding us back to winter yet again. The bright and crowded interior of Uncle lit up the end of Vallejo street as we approached on that snowy evening. A mumbling server in flannel and a sagging beanie warned of a 30 minute wait for a table, then quickly befriended us and sat us in fewer than 10. Uncle opened just about one year ago, and has been consistently popular ever since.
Carefully assessing the pan-asian-american menu, I was drawn to several comfort dishes. For small plates, we ordered kimchi, japanese eggplant and the steamed pork belly buns. The kimchi was tangy and sharp, much like kimchi usually is; refreshing, but not terribly out of the ordinary. The eggplant, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and scallions, glistened in a sticky-sweet brown sauce. The sauce was a bit too sticky and a touch too sweet, but that didn’t stop us from gobbling it up.
The steamed pork belly bun wasn’t at all what I expected when looking at the menu. Instead of plump, dumpling-like purses bursting with pork, these buns were more like a pan-asian taco: pillowy dough folded over pickled cucumber slices, quivering pork belly and a sticky sweet sauce. This sauce, too, was a touch too sticky and certainly too sweet, overpowering the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and fluffy dough.
For the main event–Uncle is known primarily as a noodle joint–we ordered the Bibimbap noodles and rice. Our server warned us that this dish is served at room temperature. We were not dissuaded, and when it arrived in front of us, it was the perfect warm temperature for immediate consumption. A heaping bowl of sweet and spicy rice, layered with juicy oyster mushrooms and succulent bits of steak–I couldn’t get enough. A punctured egg swirled into the mix made this dish deliciously rich. Out of everything I ate at Uncle, this is the dish I would order again–particularly if in need of some comfort.
Uncle is a warm and inviting little restaurant in the Lower Highland neighborhood of Denver. It’s fairly popular, fairly priced, and fairly yummy. I look forward to returning to this restaurant to sample more of the menu.