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What's uni supposed to taste like?

  • d

So, I just tried uni for the first time last night at a restaurant in LA. I didn't hate it and it was actually better tasting than I thought it would be considering that it looks pretty wrong at first glance. But I guess I was curious as to what really good uni is supposed to taste like. I hear people praise the uni at certain restaurants and I'm wondering what makes it taste better or worse. TIA!

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  1. j
    Jonathan Saw

    I've found that the uni I've enjoyed reminds me of the ocean, just like a good Kumamoto oyster.

    It's kind of hard to describe, but I'll take a stab (sorry if the description is a little esoteric): it tastes the way the beach smells early in the morning when the spray is coming off the waves and the wind carries the salty, sandy, smell up to you.

    Perhaps other hounds can make comparisons to other foods, but I'm pretty close with the beach thing. :-)

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jonathan Saw

      a fresh morning ocean breeze is a good descriptor or like a briny oyster.

      when the taste is anything more than delicate or like the smell of low tide it is not good uni.

      1. re: rebs
        fai jay (fai jackson)

        It doesn't taste like oysters, except for years I described oysters (very fresh, good ones) as being like eating the ocean, and I think the same thing can be said of uni. If it feels like your eating a small polluted lake==don't.

        1. re: rebs

          Just finished an uni tasting with a friend at a local sushi shop. There are over 100 varieties of uni available in Japan. Two of the more popular ones are "Bafun uni" and "Murasaki uni". The bafun uni was on the creamy side and the murasaki uni was richer in flavor. As everyone as mentioned, tastes a bit of the sea and shouldn`t smell fishy. Also, a creamy, soft texture.

          On a side note, "bafun" translates as "horse poo poo" as its appearance is exactly as it translates...


      2. I'll echo Jonathan Saw's description...fresh uni should taste like a fresh ocean breeze. Old/stale uni, on the other hand, can tend to taste like a festering tidepool.

        1. Under the hint of seabreeze, good uni also has a slight nutty sweetness in a texture like a creamy light custard, and it should leave you with subtle smooth richness on your tongue.

          1. To me it has a faint taste of lobster tomalley.

            1. Sort of like a briny egg yolk.

              1. My favorite description of uni (I'm pretty sure it was from a chowhounder) was that it tastes like "kissing a mermaid"

                Good uni should be relatively firm (not mushy or gushy). It should hold it's shape when you pick it up with your chopsticks, then it dissolves on your tongue.
                I find the best uni I've ever had (which is usually at Nozawa) has an almost nutty flavor to it, followed by the taste of the ocean, then a sweet aftertaste.

                Uni should never taste bitter or sour... if it does, it's not fresh.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Colleen

                  That was me! Part of my Haiku review of Sushi Shibucho in Costa Mesa.

                  Here's the part Colleen was talking about:

                  The Uni oozes,
                  Looking like frothy egg yolk.
                  It's sunny yellow.

                  Wet, cold and sexy;
                  The sea water saliva,
                  Of a mermaid's kiss.

                  See the link below for the full haiku review.

                  Link: http://elmomonster.blogspot.com/2005/...

                2. I feel like really fresh uni has essence of mango flavor.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cdmedici

                    hello, yes, your experience is more like my own. I try to taste the unfamiliar without preconceptions--what if we were in a place where we didn't know the language and as a good guest, we "ignorantly" enjoyed what we were served. Would uni still be described as a mermaid's kiss, fresh ocean breeze,oyster,lobster tomalley and so on? I think it could pass as a tropical fruit nuanced custard. cheers

                  2. Don't know what kind of uni the guys who say it taste like oysters are eating. ... it does not taste like oysters... and I love oysters.
                    I love uni also... I agree with e.d. it's a nutty sweet flavor with the consistency of a roughly made custard.

                    1. generally, the bigger the pores, the fresher and tastier the uni is.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ko

                        I agree. I know it depends what type of uni you get, and we certainly don't get a hundred kinds here in California, but I look for ones whose surface almost looks like that of a mammalian tongue. Rough, big pores with no sign of damage. Runniness, flatness, or too liquid an appearance can be signs of unfreshness.

                      2. outside of the texture and appearance that people have already mentioned here, yes, it should taste of ocean, it should be creamy and nutty, and actually, a bit like oceanic foie gras, but not quite so rich (which is nice to me)...

                        bad uni will taste fishy, etc... i've also noticed a distinct iodine tang in some not as good uni.