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Jan 16, 2008 03:58 PM

Fresh uni locally?

Does anyone know of a market that carries super fresh uni? My family is addicted and the sushi bars are breaking our bank account. South Bay locations would be great!

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  1. Go to a Japanese grocery store. You can buy a box for little more than a pair of nigiri.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      tried that - been to three- one in Menlo Park, two in Mountain View - no luck

      1. re: takuhead

        So you haven't been to Mitsuwa in San Jose?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Nope - where is it? Do they have a good selection of sashimi fish? Or better yet - fresh shrimp with the heads still on?

          1. re: takuhead

            Mitsuwa a big Japanese supermarket. If you're into Japanese food, you'll need to check it out.

            Another Japanese grocer that has a nice fish counter is Suruki in San Mateo.

            Suruki Supermarket
            71 E 4th Ave, San Mateo, CA

            675 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA

            1. re: takuhead

              Nijiya in Mountain View & San Mateo also often has the trays of uni.

      2. San Francisco Fish Company in the Ferry Plaza building usually has them live in all their spiny glory, allowing your inner sea otter to come out. They taste even better after you personally separate the uni from the extraordinary gloop inside the shell.

        2 Replies
        1. re: BernalFarmer

          Just wanted to give a quick report on this - after reading that SFFC had live sea urchins, I rushed over yesterday to give this a shot, arriving at ~4 pm, and picked up the last two urchins. They didn't seem to have strong signs of life, but I'm not sure how much urchins really move on their own; in any case, I was eager enough to try this that I bought them anyway. I was able to buy two for 18.50.

          The first yielded about a third of a typical Japanese supermarket tray's worth of uni, and was spectacularly fresh, if mild. The second gave off a mild stink when opened, and had significantly more goop (though it also yielded much more roe). Slightly wary, I was still excited enough to try this one, as the uni still looked beautiful and was more orange - I figured that the flavor would have been stronger. It tasted of rot. I dumped it immediately.

          After the effort involved in opening them and in cleaning the sink afterwards, and considering the price paid, I was sorely disappointed after being assured at the store that the urchins were well and alive. I'll give catalina a shot at $5 a pop next time, and will not return to the SFFC.

          1. re: drinkmoretang

            Sounds like you just got some bad shellfish. Try Swan Oyster Depot on Polk Street. If it isn't fresh, they won't sell it.

        2. You may also want to consider mail order direct from Catalina Offshore Products

          In addition to boxes of prepackaged uni, You can also get them whole and alive, $5 each, min order 3. With FedEx shipping it can still arrive fresh. It may be a pain cutting them open and scooping the blank gutty gunk out (a select few folk may actually enjoy that black juice).

          5 Replies
          1. re: K K

            Tokyo Fish Market has the "best" (as in fresh) stuff....better quality than any other Japanese/Asian markets....usualy "new" deliveries on Thursday...~$36 for a full tray....

            1. re: K K

              I recommend this or Tokyo fish over Niji-ya. I bought a tray at Nijiya in San Francisco and it was fine, especially for the price, but nothing special. The uni I had at Sebo in Hayes valley last weekend was from Alaska, and it was absolutely transcendent. I've had expensive uni from high end sushi places before, including ones that mentioned the Catalina Offshore Products people, and this blew it all away.

              1. re: SteveG

                Where is Tokyo fish at? Thanks for all the info everyone. Anyone tried the toro from the Catalina Offshore place? Was thinking of ordering a few things to try...

                1. re: takuhead

                  Albany/Berkeley -- nr the intersection of Gilman Ave. and San Pablo Ave.

                  Tokyo Fish Market
                  1220 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                2. re: SteveG

                  I third Tokyo Fish. Best & freshest seafood of all sorts - & a great place to shop. The kids behind the counter aren't all as knowledgeable as they could be, but Cubby, one of the owner's knows all there is to know.

              2. this is probably borderline off-topic, but they're relatively common off the coast around here (not as easy as mussels, but still, it's not like they'll swim away from you)--if you know anyone who dives, they'd probably be able to (with a CA fishing license, and not in certain areas), throw a couple in a bag for you when they go out. I'm not sure about size or bag restrictions, but I think they're quite reasonable.

                3 Replies
                1. re: xanadude

                  There are no restrictions on bag or size for Urchin (at least there weren't as of last season).
                  I often gather few on my way in from abalone diving near Salt Point.
                  If you have a CA fishing license and the desire, you can gather them while wading in water only a few feet deep.

                  1. re: kungful

                    My young sons learned quickly that they could earn a quarter a piece if they collected the larger spiny urchins for me...and the color of the gunk inside depends on what they have been eating...

                    1. re: jimtak

                      here''s a report of my uni experience at Mitsuwa:
                      I went yesterday expecting lots of crowds at 1pm but it was pretty quiet - waited about two minutes in line. Got some uni, ikura, and tuna sashimi. No toro available. The uni was pretty good - not great but fairly fresh - definitely worth the $9 for the small tray. But i also discovered baked uni rice chips - yummy. Wish I had bought more! Store had a great selection of pickled veggies as well with lots of samples.
                      No live shellfish - Marina foods has that but no uni.
                      Overall, I was pretty pleased with my purchases. Got a great big bag of snow pea shots for $1.60 and a huge head of napa cabbage for 39 cents! also found some fresh shiso leaves for $1.20. Not bad....

                2. This an interesting search. I love uni also. I remember seeing a sign once at 99 Ranch (Daly City/Pacifica) about live uni, but have never actually seen any there. Occasionally I pick up the small trays in SF Japantown but you have to get them home quickly.

                  I asked a relative who fishes abalone along the north coast about picking me up some. He said they spoil fast and was worried they might puncture his floatation device.

                  I did try the live ones at Swann's maybe six months ago. It was extremely fresh, although it didn't have quite the flavor I thought it would. I think it was $16 for a single urchin. I prefer eating it with rice and nori. I could see that being a very expensive addiction.

                  If someone orders it from down south, I'd be very curious how they taste.