Food/Drink

In the Raw :: Uni Sashimi

by Rebecca Hansen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 24, 2009

I love sushi. I can say this sincerely now, although I didn't really learn to enjoy its unusual flavors and textures until a few years ago - they are many strides away from the fried chicken and collards that I grew up with in southwest Virginia. But, I've come a long way since my first foray into the world of raw seafood - a first date in college where I doused everything in soy sauce and tried to pretend I was impressed. Now sushi is one of my favorite culinary treats.

Sashimi, however, has been a pleasure that still tends to elude me. For those of you who may be confused about the difference, you won't find your salmon wrapped in a bundle of rice and nori if you order salmon sashimi. Instead, sashimi style fish flies solo, usually served with only a couple of condiments or a dipping sauce, occasionally with a tiny bit of rice. My fiance, always the adventurer, orders at least one plate of sashimi whenever we get sushi. But I, in all my sushi loving glory, don't always go for the chunky pieces of fish that often arrive. It's just too much for me, as much as I want to love it.


Sashimi at its Best

Recently, however, I discovered Uni Sashimi Bar, a warm, welcoming nook of a restaurant tucked just down the stairs from Clio in the Eliot Hotel. Like Clio, Uni is run by Chef Ken Oringer, who is also behind the delicious tapas at Toro - the best in town, if you ask this former resident of Spain - and the authentic street-style tacos at La Verdad. As my companion and I took our seats at the small bar where you can watch the chef work, I had to ask myself: is there anything Oringer can’t do? Apparently not, as the meal was one of the most memorable and fabulous dining experiences I’ve ever enjoyed.

To begin with, the preparation of the fish itself was entirely different than the sashimi I’ve sampled at even the best sushi spots in Boston. Rather than the thick, oversized pieces of fish that so often overwhelm me, Chef Chris Chung produced thin, delicate slices that showcased the flavor and texture of each fish in beautiful bite-sized form. He also took great care in the arrangement of the fish on the plate, topping it with a variety of colorful condiments and sauces, the end result of which was a culinary work of art in every dish.

We started with an incredible lobster ceviche, which my companion and I agreed would be a very tough act to follow. Not only was it beautiful to look at, we were also delighted by the unfolding layers of flavor: sweet mango, tangy citrus, bright mint and cilantro, and a hint of heat at the end from the fresh jalapeno. Thin matchsticks of cucumber provided just a bit of crunch and texture to the dish. Yet somehow, none of this overshadowed the sweet, delicate flavor of the lobster, which was the star of the show. After just one dish, I was pretty sure I had discovered sashimi heaven, and every dish that followed confirmed that this was true.

We sampled several fish that were new to us, such as kinmedai, a pink, almost smoky fish whose rich flavor comes as a surprise given its delicate appearance. We also got to rediscover a creature of the ocean we thought we knew: octopus. Although I love good, fresh calamari more than just about anything, I’ve always found octopus to be tough as rubber bands, even in nicer restaurants where I had to assume it was being prepared well. I had all but given up on ever enjoying it, but here, again, Uni delivered. We saw Chef Chung preparing the octopus sashimi for another guest, and we just had to give it a try. Thinly sliced rounds of octopus layered carefully onto a square plate were topped with a savory blend of sesame seeds, ginger, cilantro, crispy shallots, and soy sauce, followed by a generous drizzle of aromatic hot sesame oil. Like every dish at Uni, the resulting flavor combination was both well-balanced and exciting, clearly designed to showcase the seafood.

The drink and dessert menus at Uni are as fabulous as the sashimi. The subtle flavors of my Ginko-Bai martini, made with Plum-infused sake, provided a crisp compliment to the meal. My companion’s Silk Kimono was a bit more powerful but just as delicious, with a blend of Asian-pear infused sake, Midori, and orange juice. And when it came time for dessert, we could not decide what we loved most. First there was the cherry capsule, an icy cylinder of cherry that cracked open to reveal a rich amaretto caramel sauce that went perfectly with the sweet cream ice cream. Then came the chocolate biscuit (pronounced bis-QUEE), a warm chocolate cake that held its own surprise of warm, creamy caramel inside. Paired with the salted peanut ice cream and some chopped peanuts, it made for an impossibly rich blend of sweet and savory-I cannot imagine a more satisfying way to end a meal.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. You’ve heard everyone raving about Uni, but it might be a little pricey for times such as these. And, normally, I might be inclined to agree. I am a writer, after all, and I have to pick and choose my indulgences with care. But, with great sympathy for those of you who find yourselves in a similar boat, I can only say this: choose Uni. Grab a spot at the bar and a sake martini, and watch an artist at work. Order something unexpected. Or, better yet, let the chef order for you an enjoy an amazing revelation of flavors. And order dessert, even if you think you’re full. You will be so very glad you did.


Rebecca Hansen is a freelance writer living in Boston. She can be reached at hansenrr@gmail.com.


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